I'm not sure if I have the title correct, but I am trying to figure out how to determine whether to use a noun form as an adjective or a verb form as an adjective.

For example:

1) Is it an extension leg or an extending leg?

2) Is it a stabilization wing or a stabilizing wing?

Is this a case-by-case thing? Does it depend upon context? I'm hoping somebody can point me in the right direction. Thanks!

  • An extending leg can be made longer; an extension leg sounds as though it supports an extension of a table or similar. I'm not sure about the wing. Mar 5, 2019 at 17:43
  • Thanks Kate. From your answer, I realized that "extension leg" fits better with my original concept of an extension of a leg. Another description for "extending leg" might be a telescoping leg. This would be a different thing. Perhaps the second example is the better one to focus on because I am trying to figure out a general principle for using a noun (e.g., stabilization) as an adjective vs. a verb (e.g., stabilizing). I don't think the second example has the same caveat.
    – etisdale
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:22
  • Stabilization wing would be a part that always serves the purpose of stabilizing. That is it is sole or primary function within a machine. A stabilizing wing could be ANY part serves to stabilize. It wasn't necessarily designed that way.
    – Karlomanio
    Mar 5, 2019 at 18:23
  • Stabilizing wing could as well be self reflexive, essentially a wing that has the tendency to stay stable, the stabilty of the flying thing being secondary. Latin would have stabilisator for the agent sense. Germanic has lost or coallesced many such morphemes, substituted different foreign morphemes later on (Latin, French, Greek for a start) and created new ones in the mix in an attempt to reinvent the wing. It's rocket science and it is a wonder that it flies at all.
    – vectory
    Aug 3, 2019 at 8:55

1 Answer 1


As a technical translator, I can (almost) assure you this is a case-per-case issue.

In the case of the leg, "extendable" might be the best option (see "Extensible" vs. "extendible") to mean that it can be extended. "extension leg" sounds like a leg that provides an extension for something else, like "extension cord".

In the case of the wing, in technical English "stabilizer" tends to be the most usual form: "stabilizer wing".

Note: In my opinion, the title of your question would be more accurate if it said: "Attributive nouns vs deverbal adjectives".

  • Thanks. Makes sense - and subject of post changed accordingly.
    – etisdale
    Mar 6, 2019 at 1:49
  • rebel leader vs rebellion leader, or bed pan vs bedside pan would be a case of attributive noun vs ..? extension jointly fits that pattern. Whatever OP had in mind, there is no consistent grammatical paradigm. The world and consequently the descriptions are way to complex for that, I agree.
    – vectory
    Aug 3, 2019 at 8:45

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