My friend used a phrase "the dark side return" meaning "the return of the dark side".

I have a feeling native speakers would never put it that way, but can't articulate my position. Is that true? Can anyone help me?

I have a vague idea that maybe action nouns (here "return") don't take noun adjuncts or attributive phrases (here "the dark side") something like that.

Edit for more context: It was a Pink Floyd cover band concert, so "The Dark Side Return" was the concert headline.

  • Welcome to EL&U. (+1) for a good question. Could you add more of the context of your friend's phrase as I think it would be helpful. – Nigel J Nov 15 '17 at 15:23
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    I think this is more a feature of dark side than return, as with more specialized meanings of return, adjuncts are common: tax return, book return, kickoff return, investment return, energy return, coin return, salmon return. – choster Nov 15 '17 at 15:31
  • ...not to mention the architectural meaning of return as well as @choster's instances (see Oxford sense 6 and the example sentences) – Andrew Leach Nov 15 '17 at 15:33
  • @choster, I didn't think of tax return, etc., but to me it seems like a different meaning, right? This is generally something being returned to you. While in my example something is actively returning. Like, you wouldn't say "The dad return happened at 9 p.m." I'm trying to find if there is any specific reason for that. – M. Kuznetsov Nov 15 '17 at 19:11
  • I hate to say so and native speakers would often put it that way. I think the problem here is with dark side itself, not dark side return. Consider instead the Nazi Party return sparked new fear across Europe. I see that most would want … Party’s… but that’s a question of style or idiom, not grammar or syntax. FYI no, tax return for one is from you to the authorities. A refund would be to you. – Robbie Goodwin Nov 17 '17 at 22:34

English titles are not the same as regular English speech or writing.

Often, titles will use a genitive and avoid awkward-sounding nouns-to-adjuncts.

The Dark Side of the Moon [a formal title].

Can you say or write: the moon's dark side. Sure, you might say it or write it. Would you use if for a title? Probably not.

Shakespeare wrote "The Merchant of Venice". And not: the Venetian Merchant.

Also, he wrote: "The Merry Wives of Windsor", and not: the merry Windsorian wives......

This idea is especially true for places: the Moon, Venice, Windsor.

Another title that comes to mind is the The Beatles' song: A Hard Day's Night.

This is the opposite phenomenon. They take "the night that comes at the end of a hard day" which does sound a bit odd and give us: A Hard Day's Night. Why? Well, maybe because they wanted to show the ordinariness of everyday things. Who knows exactly? But it works.

Let readers decide: Which sounds better?

The Return of the Jedi? Or The Jedi's Return?

Is the "Jedi's return" grammatical? Sure it is. Does it sound like a good title? NO. :)

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  • I like this answer. I do think it would be strengthened by taking out the Beatles title. By the way, I think they wrote it that way because it was a bit witty to have "Day's Night," where day and night, normally diametrical opposites, ended up with a close relationship. It was a witticism based on "a hard day's work." – aparente001 Apr 22 '18 at 1:51

For "the dark side return" to mean "the return of the dark side", the (grammatically) proper way is to say "the dark side's return".

"Tax return" and "book return", it seems to me, have both become widely used, accepted, compound nouns, and therefore are different from "the dark side's return".

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Concur that the correct way to say "the return of the dark side" would be "the dark side's return". But I don't think that was the intention of the band. It seems to me that they are considering The Dark Side to be a proper noun, and using 'return' as a verb.

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