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Pluralization rule for “five-year-old children”, “20 pound note”, “10 mile run”

We usually say "10 pounds", but for a single bill we say "10 Pound note" and not "10 pound(s) note". And when we have a lot of notes we say again "10 Pound notes". Why this disparity?

marked as duplicate by Marthaª, Robusto, Alenanno, b.roth, RegDwigнt May 6 '11 at 15:25

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  • I was going to answer but you found it lol :D – Alenanno May 6 '11 at 15:05
  • Ah, but if the bill were for 50 pence more, some would say it was Ten pound fifty where others would say Ten pounds fifty. And some would try to sidestep the issue by saying Ten pounds and fifty pence. – FumbleFingers May 6 '11 at 15:07
  • @RegDwight post makes it very clear. Pound acts as a compound (or hyphenated compound) adjective here. Adjectives always remain singular. Hence the way it is. – Codevalley May 6 '11 at 15:22

There is a general tendency in languages that when a word that inflects is incorporated into a word or a phrase as a modifier, it loses its inflection.

Since we don't have many inflections left in English, this is not as obvious as in some other languages; but it is generally the case that when a noun is used as a modifier in English it does not take plural inflection irrespective of the sense:

cow house, dog kennel, car park(ing), tree surgeon, window cleaner, bookseller, flea circus, language lessons, container ship, crop spraying, child poverty ... the list is endless.

There are exceptions of course: "drinks cabinet" is an example. But in the overwhelming majority of cases (including all measurements used attributively) the qualifying noun is in the singular.

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