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I want to refer to a few events that all last thousands of years.

My understanding is that if I use "thousands of year-long events", that means there are thousands of events; and each one of them are 1 year long. That isn't what I'm looking for.

Then I need to actually use "thousands of years long events". But I'm not sure how to hyphenate this. Is it

  1. "thousands of years long events"
  2. "thousands-of-years-long events"
  3. "thousands-of-years-long-events"

or some other hyphenation perhaps?

  • "Millennia"? Or would you consider that cheating? – Mr Lister Jul 3 '18 at 8:15
  • I would go for the second option, as the hyphens link the 'thousands of years' into a single unit, and thus make explicit how the words in the noun group relate to each other. – Oliver Mason Jul 3 '18 at 8:48
  • ' ... events lasting thousands of years'. There have been threads covering multi-hyphenated premodifiers, and the general advice is to avoid novel ones (unless one is happy to be perceived as being tongue-in-cheek). – Edwin Ashworth Jul 3 '18 at 10:43
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If you must put it before the noun, "thousands-of-years-long events" would be best. The typical pattern is to put hyphens between all of the elements of the modifier (aside from certain adverbs that may come at the start, like very or -ly adverbs) but not between the modifier and the modified noun.

But when the modifier of a noun has a complement, it's often possible to place it in post-nominal position, and I would say that is preferable in this case: "events thousands of years long". Post-nominal modifiers like this are not hyphenated.

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