The Difference: Required Document vs Document Required

By 06/25/2014문법
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Do “required document” and “document required” mean the same thing?

Compare the following two sentences.

A: “These are the required documents for obtaining a driver’s license.” 

B: “These are the documents required to obtain a driver’s license.” 

The intent of these sentences are the same. Someone is telling you what those documents are. However, grammar is different for these sentences.

The Difference is in the Grammar

A: “These are the required documents for obtaining a driver’s license.”

“Required” is an adjective. “Documents” is a noun. “The required documents” is a modified noun. It’s a noun with description.

B: “These are the documents required to obtain a driver’s license.”

“The documents required” is a part of a reduced relative clause. The sentence can be rewritten as,

“These are the documents which are required to obtain a driver’s license.”

You take out “which are” to make the sentence shorter.

Get it?

“Required documents” = a modified noun

“Documents required” = “Documents which are required” = a relative clause

The same logic goes for the difference between “a constructed building” and “a building constructed.” “A building which is constructed” is reduced to “a building constructed.”

The Difference is in the Grammar and Meaning

You just learned that the intent and meaning for these two sentences are the same.

A: “These are the required documents for obtaining a driver’s license.” 

B: “These are the documents required to obtain a driver’s license.” 

However in other situations, they do not always have the same meaning.

Take a look at these sentences.

C: “Josh is a responsible person.”

D: “Josh is the person responsible.” 

By these sentences alone, it's not very clear what they mean. Let's add context to them.

C: “Josh is a responsible person. He always keeps his room clean.” 

D: “Josh is the person responsible for this mess. He should clean it up.”

These two sentences say different things about Josh. It's important that you look at the whole sentence, and understand the context!

Adjectives Following a Noun

You learned that, adjectives + noun becomes a modified noun. You also learned that a relative clause can be reduced (e.g. “The person who is responsible” becomes “the person responsible).

Can adjectives come after a noun?


It’s called postnominal adjectives.

It does exist in the English language, but not too common. “The devil incarnate” and “the president elect” are some of the examples. “Devil” and “president” are a noun, and “incarnate” and “elect” are an adjective. “The incarnate devil” and “the elect president” are also possible, but from my experience I heard people using “the devil incarnate” and “the president elect” more often.

Sometimes in other languages, it is a requirement for adjectives to come after the noun. For example, in French you would say,

“J’ai un livre bleu.”

Which means, “I have a blue book.” “Livre” is book, and “bleu” is blue.

There are not so many of these postnominal adjectives in English, but they do show up time to time.

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About Josh

뉴욕 출신 일본계 미국인. 현재: 비즈니스 영어 강사 및 생산성 코치 (productivity coach)로서 활동. 전: 파고다 어학원, 현대백화점, 인천도시공사, 동시통역사. 출연: 재이 재능 티비, 아란잉글리쉬, 한국일보. 3개국어 능통자. 더 많은 영어 학습 팁과 영어 회화 레슨을 받으시려면 이메일 뉴스레터를 구독하세요! 바로 구독하기 »