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When I put two plural nouns in a row, should I use plural form for both? Often, when I do so, it seems wrong.

Examples can be:

"components reliabilities" - referring to reliabilities of many different components
"components failures" - failures of components
"systems designers" - designers who creates systems

Another example popped up, as I am writing this question:

"words combinations" - combinations of words

I face this problem, since I am trying to write to cover general cases, without being specific. Also, I know that I could change the word order with 'of' in many cases (e.g. failures of components). But, sometimes, such modification doesn't fit well in a sentence. So, I decided to ask.

Any help would be appreciated.

marked as duplicate by Andrew Leach Jul 9 '15 at 16:13

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I would use the singular for the first word in most of your examples:

  • "component reliabilities"
  • "component failures"
  • "word combinations"


  • "systems designers" This is different because the singular form is (or can be) a "systems designer" -- as a job title of someone who designs many systems, for example. "System designer" may be more appropriate if you're talking about a specific system: "This machine is useless. The system designer must have been an idiot".

You're forming a compound noun from 2 nouns, just not a familar one like "bus stop"

Changing the structure can make things better, it's not exactly a matter of word order though: "Component failures tend to release the magic smoke" is good, but "Components' failures tend to annoy their owners" also works. This last example uses the possesive plural (equivalent to "failures of components") and isn't a compound noun.

  • Almost, but I'm inclined to disagree with you on "systems designers". I would still go with "system designers" because I would consider that to be equivalent to "designers of systems". To specify the designer of only a specific system, you'd have to either already have established that context or specify it in the phrase, i.e. "electrical system designers", or "in the car industry, system designers...". That "systems designer" is colloquially common gives it leeway, but I don't think it has supplanted "system designer". Here's Google's view it goo.gl/GMxYjK as a search term. – Chris Subagio Jul 9 '15 at 16:20
  • @ChrisSubagio I see where you're coming from, but having worked in a systems engineering group, with both "systems engineers" and "systems designers" maybe I've seen it from a different point of view. Convince me that's just HR jargon (which I don't much like) and I'll agree with you! – Chris H Jul 9 '15 at 16:24
  • 2
    Oh, I won't fight you on that one; we have that job title here too, and it annoys me every time I see it. I think it's an entirely unnecessary plural. Consider "cars designers", "layouts editors" or "airplanes pilots" for people who can design many different kinds of cars, edit many different kinds of layouts or pilot many different kinds of planes. Or rather, don't! – Chris Subagio Jul 9 '15 at 16:27
  • Thank you for your very kind and insightful answers, both Chris-es! Your comments help me a lot to clarify things in my head and will help my writing in a long run. Apparently, I cannot upvote due to my low rank. Otherwise, I would. Sincerely. – ElectroJunkie Jul 9 '15 at 18:18
  • how to use pproperly - items values' converters(the meaning is I have many items and each item has many values and I need a specific converter for a specific value of a specific item); converters of items values – isxaker Sep 12 '18 at 5:17

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