Today, when I was reading some meme on 9gag, I saw a phrase, and I tried rephrasing it in my head, but it went confusing and gave me this question in return :(

  1. The never spoken rules of using escalators.
  2. The never spoken rules of escalators using.
  3. The never spoken rules of escalators usage.
  4. The never spoken rules of usage escalators.

a) Which are correct?


b) What are the differences?

2 Answers 2


One is OK, the rest are not.

  • The never spoken rules of using escalators.

This is OK, although we could replace 'never spoken' with 'unspoken' to reduce the waffle factor.

  • The never spoken rules of escalators using.

This is not OK, because both 'use' and 'usage' are more likely candidates. Secondly, the use of a plural here has no meaning since 'escalators' is effectively in an adjective position, and the plural form here has to meet certain criteria to be acceptable.

  • The never spoken rules of escalators usage.

This is not OK. First we have the plural 'escalators' issue, plus the choice of 'usage' rather than 'use'. Use of the 'usage' is common in describing general uses rather than actual events. This means it rather suggests why the architect chose to install escalators instead of stairs.

We could use:

The never spoken rules of escalator use.

  • The never spoken rules of usage escalators.

This is not OK, as the pairing 'usage escalators' is unlikely in comparison to 'using escalators', and suggests more the installing of escalators over the installing of stairs.

  • I really like your answer, but I'm still curious. Isn't the phrase trying to state about rules of use? Shouldn't the main subject of the phrase be about use? Why isn't escalators supposed to be an adjective describing the use, since the phrase is stating about use of any escalators?
    – hbtpoprock
    Oct 26, 2018 at 13:24
  • 2
    @hbtpoprock ah, but without the original I cannot say. Assuming that it is about rules of use, then when we put 'escalators' in the adjective position it takes the form of an adjective, so '1 black dog, 2 black dogs, 1 escalator use, 2 escalator uses'. We have to bear in mind that in spoken English there would be no difference between 'escalators use and escalator's use', so it is generally avoided, except in cases like a multiple key word ('saints Peter and Paul'), confusions between countable and uncountable meanings ('damage report vs. damages report') etc. Oct 26, 2018 at 13:32

Firstly, it's unspoken rules

Secondly, on or about is following by a gerund

The unspoken rules about using escalators or on using escalators.

If you use "escalator usage", it sounds like a tech manual and that does not collocate well with unspoken rules. It sounds like two styles are being mixed together.

  • Ty for the ans :)
    – hbtpoprock
    Oct 27, 2018 at 10:22

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