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Using Phrasal Modifiers, by Dennis Oliver


Using Phrasal Modifiers

In Grammar Hint 171, we reviewed how nouns can be
used to modify (describe, add information about) other
nouns. Phrases can be used in the same way.

Look at these two sentences:

Alice has a son.
Alice's son is seven years old.

There are many ways to combine these two sentences.
One way is by using a phrasal modifier:

Alice has a seven-year-old son.

Notice that . . .

1.   . . . the entire phrase (seven-year-old) acts
as a single modifier. (This is shown by using
hyphens ( - ) to connect the parts of the phrase.
2.   . . . the noun ("year") following the number
("seven") is singular, not plural. This happens
because the phrase is used as an adjective and
because there are no plural adjectives in English.

Here are a few more examples:

noun with
phrasal modifier
a two-car garage   a garage that is big
enough for two cars
a five-course meal   a meal that has five
courses (parts--each with
a different kind of food)
a three-day weekend   a weekend that has
three days instead of
two (Monday is a holiday)
a two-bedroom apartment   an apartment that has
two bedrooms
a four-time winner   someone who has won
a race, athletic event,
or other competition
four times
a 12-string guitar   a guitar that has
12 strings
a ten-speed bicycle   a bicycle that uses
gears to go at ten
different speeds
a 300-year-old antique   an item that is 300
years old


Special Notes:


Remember that in phrasal modifiers, the
items in the phrase are joined with hyphens:

a 300-year-old antique

a 12-string guitar

a two-bedroom antique


Remember that when a phrasal modifier
has a number and a noun, the noun
after the number is singular, not plural:

a two-car garage

a two-bedroom apartment

a three-day weekend


If a phrasal modifier has a number and
a noun, the noun after the number is
singular even if the main noun is plural:

two five-course meals

several three-day weekends

two six-year-old children

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