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Let me ask you a question which I've derived from my programming practice:

Let's assume, I have a number of users represented by their names: John, Pete, Stanislaw, Marc, ...

What words should I use to name such collection of names of users: user names, or users names?


To provide more context, here is similar example for programmers:

JSON of objects: [{"id": 1, ...}, {"id": 2, ...}, {"id": 3, ...}, ...]

How should I name a variable representing a collection of identificators (ids) of given objects:

var objectIds; // or
var objectsIds;

var objectIdentificators; // or
var objectsIdentificators;


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marked as duplicate by Rory Alsop, RegDwigнt Dec 24 '13 at 13:14

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Please, read carefully, what I am asking. It is not a duplicate! – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:09
When you know the correct spelling is username, then the plural form would be usernames. – Gigili Dec 24 '13 at 10:11
My question is not only about a spelling of the word username, but rather about a shorter form of writing: the names of the users - that is what I intend to make the name of my collection to represent - so it's meaning is wider than just "usernames". Am I clear? – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:14
This is not a question about English language or usage, it is a question about variable naming. You can name your variables anything you like. But if you want your name to represent an English phrase, then English plural NP show the plural form in the head (final) word and hardly ever in any other word. – Colin Fine Dec 24 '13 at 10:16
@ColinFine, so the both forms are correct then? I just want to know if there is a rule for this case. Please see how I've updated my programmatic example: objectIdentificators or objectsIdentificators? – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:18

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

What words should I use to name such collection of names of users: user names, or users names?

In the second example, users names sounds like user's names. You are already pluralizing names; I believe you are modifying names with the adjective user.

Using another adjective-noun pair might help clarify the situation:

sentence structures vs. sentenses structures

The latter is very odd. Structures is being modified by sentence. That is enough information.

Edited by request: There is too much information imparted in the second example. The thing, the noun, we want to emphasize is the head (or final) word: structures. The word sentence here is an adjective. It doesn't need to be plural.

Again, if we were writing about a more than one horse farm, we would say horse farms to indicate that the most important word (which is farm) is plural. It would just confuse things to say horses farms. It would only make sense if the farms belonged to the all of the horses. Obviously they do not, or there would be an apostrophe: horses' farms.

Your 'names' do not belong to all of the users collectively. Each has his own user name. Together , they are user names.

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Thanks for additional clarification. I've read your edits! – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:32
Sorry for perseverance. The last question: is the form objects identificators would be incorrect if I want to emphasize/indicate the fact that a collection I'am dealing with is a collection of identificators of distinct objects?! – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:36
No. Objects identificators would probably never be written by a native English speaker. As I said in another comment, we almost always pluralise only the last word in a noun phrase. But if pushed, I would interpret as negating the outermost verb, so "or did not want".There's another reason why a native English speaker is unlikely to write this: we would use identifiers not identificators. So I would use objectIdentifiers (or objectIds). But again, it's your program, so you can call your variables anything you wish. – Colin Fine Dec 24 '13 at 10:41
Great! Thanks for clarification! And sorry for this my russian-based "identificator" - I've just forgot to substitute it with correct "identifier". I will accept Susan's answer as correct. – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:44
By the way, I've asked this question because of I thought there will be a similarity beetween english and russian languages in this aspect: in russian language the correct form of writing this would be exactly: plural + plural (not singular + plural). Good luck! – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:52

Please allow me to answer this question by quoting from a grammar book: Practical English Usage by Michael Swan. According to 531 singular and plural (9): noun + noun:

531.1 first noun singular: shoe shop
In noun + noun structures, the first noun is normally singular in form even if it has a plural meaning.
  a shoe shop (= a shop that sells shoes)
  a toothbrush (= a brush for teeth)
  trouser pockets (= pockets in trousers)
  a ticket office (= an office that sells tickets)

531.2 exceptions
Some nouns are plural in this structure. These include nouns which have no singular form (like clothes), nouns which are not used in the singular with the same meaning (like customs), and some nouns which are more often used in the plural than in the singular (like savings). In some cases, e.g. antique(s), drug(s), usage is divided, and both singular and plural forms are found. In general, plurals are becoming more common in this structure. Examples: [...]

Note also that singular nouns ending in -ics can be used before other nouns.
  athletics training
  an economics degree

We use the plurals men and women to modify plural nouns when they have a 'subject' meaning; man and woman are used to express an 'object' meaning. Compare:
- men drivers (= men who drive)
  women pilots (= women who fly planes)
- man-eaters (= lions or tigers that eat people)
  woman-haters (= people who hate women)

The last four examples are especially helpful: user in username is used to express an 'object' meaning. A username means a name of a user, not a user who names something.

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+1 - Great explanation. – medica Dec 24 '13 at 10:55
I wish I could have an option to accept the both of the answers. – Stanislav Dec 24 '13 at 10:56

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