In the title of a paper I'm writing, I want to talk about "replication" of servers, but I'm not sure if the object of replication should be written in singular or plural form.

Should I write

Performance evaluation of video servers replication in networks


Performance evaluation of video server replication in networks

My supervisor says it should be the former because several servers are being replicated. But somehow that feels grammatically incorrect to me.

Is there a general rule to support the choice for a singular or plural noun here? Does it depend on how many servers are being replicated (one or several)?


  • 2
    It's definitively server replication, singular server. No native speaker of English would say servers replication with plural servers. The short story is that you're describing a process, and server is modifying replication like an adjective, rather than a noun. To describe the act of replicating more than one server, we'd say "John replicated 6 servers today", or, if you want to use the compound, you'd use is as a unit and pluralize the whole thing: "John did 6 server replications today". I'll let my more linguistically-informed colleagues here offer proper technical explanations.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:33
  • 1
    @DanBron One theory for why we almost always use only the singular for nouns used attributively is because of the possible aural confusion with the possessive if the plural had been used.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:35
  • @tchrist Ah, that makes sense.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:36
  • Related (dup?) User’s Guide vs Users’ Guide Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 12:40

1 Answer 1


The general rule you asked for is that, when one noun qualifies another, the former should always be singular. That is why, for example, we say 'book shop' and not 'books shop', even though they sell more than one book. The qualifying noun is fulfilling an adjectival function here, as other respondents have pointed out.

There are a small number of counterexamples, most of which are modern terms, e.g. people carrier, singles bar, systems analyst. However, 'server replication' isn't a specific computing technical term, and isn't a known exception to the general rule your question asks about.

Overall, 'server replication', not 'servers replication', is correct.

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