I have a question about the order of adjective and noun in Chinese. In this phrase 生活奢侈 the order is noun+adjective. But in this phrase 奢侈品 the order of noun + adjective is reversed.

What is the difference between the two structures? There are lots of such examples, which I get confused with every time when I want to use them.

Thank you for your answer.

  • 奢侈品:奢侈(attributive luxury (noun) modifies 品 (head word, 中心语),生活奢侈 seems to be of type "subject(生活) + predicate(奢侈)" which itself can function as predicate, cf。e.g. ichacha: 生活奢侈 live in luxury, 生活奢侈者, sentence with S-P phrase as predicate (主谓谓语): 他的收入不允许他(S1)生活(S2)奢侈(P)
    – user6065
    Nov 17, 2017 at 18:48

2 Answers 2


Placing adjective before the noun, like '奢侈品' is a normal grammar structure, you cannot go wrong with that

When you put an adjective after a noun, the noun is acting as the topic, and the adjective is acting as a comment.


他的生活 (his life) is the topic

很奢侈 (is luxury) is the comment,

you can replace 'is luxury' with other adjective (comment), for example '艰难' --> "他的生活艰难" (his life is difficult)

Not all noun can be a topic, especially a single character noun like 品.

Not all adjective can be a comment

For example:

'这家公司的发展非常迅速' make sense;

'这家公司的发展非常海外' doesn't make sense,

although '海外' is a legit adjective for '发展' as in '这家公司的海外发展'

Without clear context, 生活奢侈 can also be interpreted as a [verb + adverb] structure, with 生活 as a verb, and 奢侈 as an adverb. That's why I add a subject and possessive 的 to clarify '(他的)生活' is a noun


In Chinese, as in other languages, adjectives can come before or after a noun:

That woman (is) beautiful.
That beautiful woman.

Have a look here for some tips.

English has all kinds of suffixes to change words from noun to verb to adjective to adverb and back again. Chinese does not do that. This begs the question, 'How do you identify which word is what in Chinese sentences?'


Do you live in luxury, not caring about the needy?

You can translate 生活奢侈 as 'live luxuriously' or 'live in luxury'

他的生活很奢侈。 His life(style) is luxurious.

Whereas 'His life is luxury.' means 'the goal and sole aim of his life is to attain and enjoy luxury'

奢侈品 is a compound noun 'luxury goods'. Chinese makes no distinction between luxury and (luxury + -ous) = luxurious and in 'luxury goods', neither does English! While the phrase 奢侈的品 is unlikely or at least unusual, 奢侈的 is not unusual.

1。 谁会为她奢侈的假日买单?
Who is paying for her extravagant holiday?

However, in 2。, 奢侈的 is probably not an adjective.

2。 你能分出慷慨与奢侈的区别吗?
Can you tell the difference between generosity and luxury?
Not: *Can you tell the difference between generosity and luxurious difference.

So, how do you know what kind of word you are dealing with? Could you write a computer program to do that?

  • For your second example, 慷慨与奢侈 should be taken as a whole. 慷慨与奢侈+的区别。xxx 与/和 xxx 的区别 might be taken as a set structure. By the way, I see your Chinese is much improved! :)
    – dan
    Nov 18, 2017 at 12:58
  • My Chinese is as bad as ever, but thanks for the encouragement. I realize that the whole phrase belongs together. Notwithstanding, you still have the word order 奢侈的区别. We know 奢侈的 is not an adjective here. How do we know that?
    – Pedroski
    Nov 18, 2017 at 21:55

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