adjective + BUT + adjective + noun (complex noun phrase)

At B2, students can use the form: adjective + but + adjective + noun.


Point 45 in the category of NOUNS is defined as:

increasing range of complex noun phrases with more than one adjective combined with ‘but’.


Here’s an iWeb corpus frequency list of the most common combinations of ‘adjective + but + adjective + noun’ and some expert examples.

_JJ but _JJ _NN

1 SERIOUS BUT STABLE CONDITION 534
2 CRITICAL BUT STABLE CONDITION 458


3 SMALL BUT GROWING NUMBER 438

  Telegraph.co.uk
First major post-lockdown Mediterranean cruise departs from …
In giving cruise lines the green light to restart sailing, Italy joins a small but growing number of countries allowing ships to cast anchor and …

4 SIMPLE BUT EFFECTIVE WAY 357
5 MOIST BUT WELL-DRAINED SOIL 220
6 SLOW BUT STEADY PROGRESS 135
7 RARE BUT SERIOUS SIDE 132
8 SMALL BUT SIGNIFICANT NUMBER 128
9 SMALL BUT VOCAL GROUP 126
10 SLOW BUT STEADY GROWTH 119
11 SMALL BUT DEDICATED GROUP 114
12 ACCRUED BUT UNPAID INTEREST 108
13 SMALL BUT GROWING GROUP 108
14 SMALL BUT IMPORTANT PART 100
15 SUBTLE BUT IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE 97
16 SERIOUS BUT NON-LIFE-THREATENING INJURIES 96
17 SMALL BUT SIGNIFICANT CHANGES 94


B2 vocabulary found in this complex noun phrase includes:

critical, effective, growth, injuries, significant, soil, steady, threatening