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I am helping to correct some errors in a game manual not originally written in english. I've come across a bit that I'm not sure what to do with.

The game consists of several 90-minute matches.

My question is whether this is correct or if the line should read:

The game consists of several 90-minutes matches.

I feel like the original version is correct, though I only base this off of the fact that is "sounds" right to me. I've done a bit of searching and found a blog post about something similar here. It doesn't provide a definitive answer though.

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Jon Hanna, tchrist, Drew, Andrew Leach Dec 30 '14 at 11:43

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  • The original is correct. This construction occurs with compound adjectives that involve time or distance. Compare the similar structure of phrases like "a twelve-year-old child" or "a three-mile trip." – Nicole Dec 29 '14 at 19:57
  • Adjective phrases that precede the noun they modify must be singular; i.e, *Shoes Store is ungrammatical, even though shoe stores always sell two shoes at a time. Adjective phrases that follow the noun are not bound by this rule ("the eleven-year-old boy rule", distinguishing it from the boy eleven years old). – John Lawler Dec 29 '14 at 20:03
  • English does not have any plural adjectives — no, not one. – tchrist Dec 30 '14 at 0:48
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As the expression 90-minute functions as an adjective, it is not pluralised and your first option is correct.

  • But nine days wonder is used (along with other variants). It's an exception. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 29 '14 at 20:27
  • Is it? Or is it a different construction, like thirty minutes' walk, a walk of (i.e. lasting) thirty minutes, which is not adjectival per se. – user52889 Dec 29 '14 at 21:47
  • @user52889 it started as one and became the other. The expression "nine days' wonder" using a genitive came to be used as a noun adjunct and kept the s, resulting in "nine days wonder" (though "nine day wonder" is also found). Other exceptions of the type Edwin notes can be found if e.g. a "writer's group" became a "writers group", where again a shift from the genitive to adjunct way of using a noun as a modifier keeps the s and it ends up as a plural. It happens because people think a genitive is adjectival and treat it as such, so it becomes it. It's a rare case. – Jon Hanna Dec 29 '14 at 23:57
  • So can we say the matches are ninety-minute? ;) – Araucaria Dec 31 '14 at 11:01
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In modern English we use compound phrases like ninety-minute attributively. This means that we use them to modify nouns:

  • a ten minute programme
  • a three hour match
  • a two year course

In such cases the modifying phrase behaves like an adjective. The time phrase does not inflect although there is more than one unit in each (ten, three or five in the examples above).

However, when we use these phrases predicatively, like a predicative adjective, then the noun part of the phrase must be plural:

  • the programme was only ten minutes
  • the match was three hours
  • the course was two years

In other words we use ninety minute like an attributive only adjective and ninety minutes like a predicative only adjective. (In fact these are noun phrases, arguably modifying a missing adjective: long. But the salient point is that the first is only used attributively, the second predicatively.)

  • Hmmm mystery anonymous downvoter - what a surprise! :) – Araucaria Dec 30 '14 at 13:47
  • The point about plural uses predicatively is well-made, and matches the title of the question, though not the body, to make me wonder if we should have closed it as a duplicate at all, since it addresses something the other question does not. – Jon Hanna Dec 30 '14 at 22:06

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