I know that nouns behaving as modifiers should take the singular form. However, I sometimes have problems telling if certain exceptions are possible. In the example below:

"I feel trapped in a cycle of negative and unpleasant thoughts."

Would it be grammatical to write: "I feel trapped in a negative and unpleasant thoughtS cycle"? I want to emphasize the fact that more than one thought keeps (should I say "keep?") revolving in my head. I will appreciate your help, sorry if you find this question too silly.

  • (1) 'I know that nouns behaving as modifiers should take the singular form.' Have you ever heard of a sport car or a system analyst? (2) Noun modifiers aren't always appropriate. Try 'the Black Calcutta Hole' and 'the Triffid/s Day'. 'Thought's cycle' sounds strange to my ear, but there's no rule that says either can't be used. If you check on the internet, You'll see that both are used, with the singular form being more common.... – Edwin Ashworth Apr 29 '15 at 16:18
  • These Google Ngrams show that 'cycle of thought' (doubtless mass noun thought rather than singular) is the preferred form. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 29 '15 at 16:20
  • Thanks for your help, Edwin. I didn't get your first remark: "Have you ever heard of a sport car or a system analyst?" aren't those instances of a singular noun modifying another noun? and as regards (2) I did not mean adding 'S' for possesion, but for plural form. Thanks in advance – M-b Apr 29 '15 at 16:22
  • 'Sports car' and 'systems analyst' are the terms used. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 29 '15 at 16:24
  • There are other questions addressing the plural attributive noun issue here on ELU; the answer at Plural modifying noun gives the overall picture, though individual examples need examining one by one. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 29 '15 at 16:30

Whether you say circle of negative and unpleasant thoughts using a Norman/Analytic Genitive or negative and unpleasant thoughts' cycle using Saxon/Synthetic Genitive is absolutely the same as long as you have the apostrophe which indicates gerund and plural form of the noun. It depends on what you want to emphasize: cycle or thoughts.

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