Sign up ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Can someone please clarify what is the plural form of proof of concept? Is it proofs of concept, proof of concepts or proofs of concepts?

share|improve this question

closed as general reference by RegDwigнt Jun 22 '12 at 15:26

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I would simply say POCs.. Most people use the abbreviated form in conversations.. to say the whole thing is so tiring.. – userSeven7s Jun 22 '12 at 15:15
While writing formally proof-of-concept's could be used I guess.. – userSeven7s Jun 22 '12 at 15:21
It might depend on you have many different proofs of one concept, or many different proofs of many different concepts. – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 22 '12 at 15:22
@userSeven7s no. That is so wrong I don't know where to start. – RegDwigнt Jun 22 '12 at 15:24
I am closing this as general reference, since Wiktionary has the answer. See also: Words that are pluralized in the middle. – RegDwigнt Jun 22 '12 at 15:27

2 Answers 2

It's proofs of concept.

As the moderator's closure comment indicates, the Wiktionary:Talk page is a good reference; e.g. compare to "mothers-in-law" or "attorneys-at-law."

share|improve this answer
What if I have multiple proofs of multiple concepts? as @FrustratedWithForms. said.. – userSeven7s Jun 22 '12 at 15:29
Then you would have multiple proofs of concept, not "proofs of concepts" – izx Jun 22 '12 at 15:33

If you consider proof of concept a compound phrase, it would be proofs of concept. In The Associated Press Stylebook, it says for compound words that involve separate words or words linked by a hyphen, make the most significant word plural:

  • Significant word first: adjutants general, aides-de-camp, attorneys general, courts-martial, daughters-in-law, passers-by, postmasters general, presidents-elect, secretaries general, sergeants major
  • Significant word in the middle: assistant attorneys general, deputy chiefs of staff
  • Significant word last: assistant attorneys, assistant corporation counsels, deputy sheriffs, lieutenant colonels, major generals
share|improve this answer
I've always wondered whether cul-de-sac happens to follow this rule. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jun 22 '12 at 16:23
Per my American Heritage Dictionary, 4th ed., it can be either culs-de-sac or cul-de-sacs. I would guess in U.S. suburbia, that cul-de-sacs is more commonly used. – JLG Jun 22 '12 at 16:32
Stating the rule in terms of "most significant word" seems unnecessarily ambiguous to me. I learned it as "make the noun plural, not any adjective or other modifiers". So, for example, a "court martial" is a court that is martial (i.e. related to the military), not a martial that is court. So to make it plural, we say "courts martial", because there are two courts, not two "martials". Granted it can be confusing because in some cases a word can be both a noun and an adjective, but we have to look at how it's used in this particular phrase. ... – Jay Jun 22 '12 at 17:29
... Like "attorney general". Yes, "general" can be a noun, as in the military rank. But here it's being used as an adjective. The "attorney" has "general" authority. – Jay Jun 22 '12 at 17:30

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.