The Difference: Required Document vs Document Required

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.

About Josh

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언어와 문화 학습을 좋아하는 일본계 미국인 Josh 입니다. 영어와 일본어를 하고 제3개국어인 한국어는 20대에 배웠습니다. 통번역사, 프로젝트매니저, 마케터로서의 경험을 바탕으로 여러분이 스마트하게 보일 수 있는 영어 스피킹 노하우를 공유하고 있습니다. 비즈니스 영어와 발음과 엑센트에 관한 강좌를 실시하고 있습니다. 분야: 비즈니스 영어, 프레젠테이션, 발음 교정 現: 유튜브채널 SplashEnglish 운영前: 서울교육대학교, 김미경 영어 스피치 트레이너. 협동: EBSe, JEI 재능, 메가스터디, 제주항공, 캠블리, 코어소리영어, AranTV. 다룰 줄 아는 악기: 탬버린.좋아하는 음식은 타코스.

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