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What is the difference between, say, an aeroplane's pilot and an aeroplane pilot?

Are both interchangeable or synonyms? It seems unclear and ambiguous

marked as duplicate by GoldenGremlin, Edwin Ashworth, jimm101, Chenmunka, FumbleFingers Oct 21 '16 at 15:30

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    Related: Possessive or attributive Question 1 | Question 2. There may be others too; I'm not convinced that either of those really answers this question. – Andrew Leach Oct 20 '16 at 20:53
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    I'm fairly sure there is a true duplicate, but here the attributive usage 'aeroplane pilot' identifies the class of pilot (not harbour or maritime, say) whereas the possessive usage means 'the pilot of the aeroplane [already referred to]'. – Edwin Ashworth Oct 20 '16 at 21:03

They are not equivalent.

An airplane's pilot is the pilot of a particular airplane at a particular time (usually someone who is trained to do so, but not necessarily; if a flight attendant was operating an airplane because the regular pilot died, she would be the airplane's pilot despite not being formally trained in that task).

An airplane pilot is someone whose career or training has prepared them to operate airplanes in general.

The term "aeroplane", by the way, as opposed to "airplane" is quaint and generally not used at all except for artistic or marketing flourish.

  • 'Aeroplane' isn't quaint in the UK. 'Airplane' sounds like a Leslie Nielsen movie over here. – BoldBen Oct 21 '16 at 7:22
  • Fair enough. I assumed an American dialect where perhaps that isn't an obviously correct assumption. – ohwilleke Oct 21 '16 at 8:17

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