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Some time ago I was speaking with a Japanese teacher, and to say "A white chocolate dog" she said 犬のホワイトチョコレート; I asked, shouldn't it be ホワイトチョコレートの犬, since 犬のホワイトチョコレート sounded to me like "A white chocolate of dog" or "Dog's white chocolate", but she confirmed first. I was unable to understand why goes as first element, though, I think something about being the main concept. Any ideas?

If it does is 犬のホワイトチョコレート, how do you understand if something like 男のホワイトチョコレート means "A man's white chocolate" or "A man of white chocolate"?

Edit: the meaning was - and it was clear for both the teacher and me - a edible dog made out of white chocolate; there was no misunderstading about that.

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The particle の has many roles.

犬のホワイトチョコレート can potentially mean:

  1. a dog named White Chocolate (compare トナカイのルドルフ "Rudolph the reindeer" and 友達のジョン "my friend John")
  2. dog-shaped white chocolate
  3. white chocolate owned by a certain dog
  4. white chocolate made specially for dogs

ホワイトチョコレートの犬 can potentially mean:

  1. an edible dog made of white chocolate
  2. a (living) dog that is somehow like white chocolate
  3. a dog owned by a person called White Chocolate
  4. a dog born in a place called White Chocolate

I feel "a white chocolate dog" is a little confusing. Maybe she took it as "a dog called White Chocolate" but you meant an edible dog? If you explain it in other words, you may get a different response from her.

As for 男のホワイトチョコレート, I probably take it as "special white chocolate for men" if there is no context, but it's equally ambiguous.

EDIT: If the intended meaning is "an (edible) dog made of white chocolate", both 犬のホワイトチョコレート and ホワイトチョコレートの犬 can potentially refer to that, but the former is like "dog(-shaped) chocolate" whereas the latter is like "chocolate(-made) dog". The final noun is the main noun. Anyway, you should avoid ambiguous phrases like these unless there is clear context. Usually it's much better to say 犬の形のチョコレート or チョコレートでできた犬.

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    I edited the original question to clarify: the meaning was - and it was clear for both the teacher and me - a edible dog made out of white chocolate; there was no misunderstading about that. If both 犬のホワイトチョコレート and ホワイトチョコレートの犬 could mean a dog made of white chocolate, there is any nuance? Do you have any idea why she preferred the former? To say dog-shaped white chocolate I'd have used the latter. – Mauro Sep 19 at 23:41
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    @Mauro The final noun is the "main" noun, so 犬のチョコレート is "dog(-shaped) chocolate" and チョコレートの犬 is "a chocolate(-made) dog". Anyway, you should avoid ambiguous phrases like this unless there is clear context. It's much better to say 犬の形のチョコレート or チョコレートでできた犬. – naruto Sep 20 at 0:27
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    I think that's what the teacher meant while trying to explain, guess I just have to get used to it, thanks. I accepted your answer, could you edit it with your last comment? I think it'd be very useful to have it in the answer's main body. – Mauro Sep 20 at 7:48
  • Yes, while the whole answer body is useful, I also think the question is actually answered in your further comment. – jarmanso7 Sep 20 at 12:24

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