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A noun adjunct is a noun that modifies another noun. For example, the word "baby" in the phrase "baby food" is a noun adjunct. In this simple case, you can translate it into Spanish as "comida de bebé".

I'm not sure how you do it for longer chains of noun adjuncts, or phrases that have adjectives and noun adjuncts. How would you translate phrases like these into Spanish?

  • Little lion man
  • Car insurance customer claim rate
  • Natural conservation engineering junior merit badge
  • Turkey pan holder salesman annual salary
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Great examples, noun adjunct question asker man! –  jrdioko Feb 8 '12 at 17:34

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Although I agree that the preposition "de" is overused, particularly by non-native Speakers, adjectives are equally underused by native speakers of English, as many of these chains could actually be considered adjevtives.

Consider the following example:

Railroad worker - Trabajador (n) de ferrocarril (n)

While this is technically correct, it is symptomatic of the overuse of "de", and for that matter all other prepositions. More eloquently you could say:

Railroad worker - Trabajador (n) ferroviario (adj)

High-brow Spanish also makes use of more proper Latin-derived nouns and adjectives as well.

Worker accident rate - Frecuencia (n) de accidentes (n) de trabajadores (n)

Worker accident rate - Frecuencia (n) de accidentes (n) laborales (adj)

Worker accident rate - Siniestralidad (n) laboral (adj)

Now, for one of yours.

Car insurance customer claim rate - Tasa (n) de reclamaciones (n) al seguro (n) de automóvil (n) del cliente (n) *I don't think a Spanish speaker would ever say something like this

Car insurance customer claim rate - Siniestralidad (n) automovilistica (adj) del cliente (n)

Car insurance customer claim rate - Siniestralidad (n) automovilistica (adj) personal (adj)

For this reason, a lot of things written in English and translated to Spanish look excessively long and convoluted when translated by someone doing word-for-word translation.

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Very interesting comparison! This might make me think twice in the future when translating. –  jrdioko Feb 9 '12 at 14:03

As the other answerers said, usually you can invert the nouns and put de between them, sometimes replacing de algo with an adjective.

In the real world, however, many people—especially in writing—omit de. They would instead write comida bebés, trabajador ferrocarril, or even tasa reclamaciones seguro automóvil cliente!

Me caga, but it is what it is. People write stuff like that in the real world all the time. Even in contexts like business communications: we've all heard that you need to use good grammar and spelling in situations where you want to "look professional," but many people don't bother. So, you should be prepared to understand it when you see it, because you will.

(I asked about this phenomenon in Two nouns in a row, or, is it OK to omit "de"?. Diego and Eduardo are correct that, prescriptively speaking, it is wrong. Of course, descriptivists may view the matter differently.)

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Programmers, including myself, tend to write object properties names without the "de" preposition. This way the name is shorter. –  Alfredo Osorio Feb 10 '12 at 22:34
    
We do this in Andalucía, I thought it was it was a feature of andaluz. –  Cayetano Gonçalves Feb 10 '12 at 23:00

You first example ("baby food" = "comida de/para bebé") shows the general (not universal) rule: invert the nouns, join them with a preposition - normally "de", but also "para", "a", "por" ...

Really, the preposition "de" is overused in Spanish, but here the blame does not fall upon the Spanish speakers, but upon the language itself. English is in general more plastic, it's more satisfactory for building this kind of construction. In Spanish it's a little painful:

Turkey pan holder salesman annual salary

Salario anual del vendedor de sostenes de ollas de(para) pavo.

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