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I've recently caught myself spending too much time wondering about several off-sounding compounds I've come across, e.g. browsers list (as in, a list of browsers) and tasks queue (as in, a queue of tasks).

I can't help it, but pluralizing the first word sounds weird to me. I would have said, "browser list" and "task queue".

Which grammatical number is proper grammar?

(This question is quite similar, but isn't answered with regards to this specific detail.)

marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Nov 14 '18 at 10:32

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    I don't think "browsers list" is valid. A "browser list" is a list, each member of which is a "browser". A "browsers list" is a list, each member of which is a "browsers" :) just as an "egg box" is a box each member of which is an egg, while an "eggs box" is a box each member of which is an "eggs". – fundagain Nov 14 '18 at 8:12
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Although the phrase means the same thing in either case, the singular and the plural mean entirely different things and are therefore both correct and grammatical.

Plural:
"Browsers list" refers to a list of individual elements each of which is a "browser".

OTOH,
Singular:
"Browser list" refers to a list in the class "browser," that is, elements belonging to the class.

Generally though, since we are referring to members of a class and all of them belong to the same class, we use the reference to class, i.e., the singular.

Consider:
User IDs: various elements, all of the type User ID (reference to class).
Users IDs or Users' IDs: IDs of several users. (no reference to class).

  • Thanks; though, I don't quite understand the notion of "class" that you're using, so both list definitions sound relatively interchangeable to me. Could you help clarifying the difference even more? – Chiru Nov 14 '18 at 7:49
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    Thanks again. Does "Users IDs or Users' IDs" not rather imply "IDs of several users, all of the type User ID" and thus reference the class/type as well? – Chiru Nov 14 '18 at 7:53
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    @Kris Are you sure you are correct here? What is an "eggs box" and why? Can you give a reference for your answer. – fundagain Nov 14 '18 at 8:13
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    @Kris I don't get it. If someone comes to my shop and asks for an "eggs box", what should I sell them. I only have "egg boxes" in the store room. Do I sell them one of those? – fundagain Nov 14 '18 at 8:37
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    Google ngrams knows of no "eggs box". books.google.com/ngrams/… – fundagain Nov 14 '18 at 9:26

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