Why is it "runners-up", as opposed to the naïve "runner-ups"?

Is there a rule to remember for these situations?

  • 3
    Related: Chambers of Commerce?
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 21:11
  • Chambers of Commerce is well established. The likes of runner-up are not quite the same.
    – Kris
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 14:55
  • The OP is asking "why", not which form is correct, so I don't think the question should be closed.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


The hyphenate runner-up contains a noun and an adverb/preposition. Only nouns can be pluralized. Since it is still hyphenated, the parts maintain their grammatical value.

  • 2
    Thanks. I guess, 10 years into the future, when "runner-up" has been molten into "runnerup", its plural would change. ;)
    – Tomalak
    Commented Dec 18, 2010 at 21:17
  • 2
    Now I'm curious: Why is it "pat-downs", not "pats-down"?
    – Tomalak
    Commented Dec 19, 2010 at 11:07
  • 2
    @Tomalak: I think in that case SingLow's answer doesn't quite apply. I think the components are a verb and a preposition, and only together do they become a noun, and thus you pluralize the whole thing. Same goes for sit-ups and push-ups.
    – John Y
    Commented Dec 20, 2010 at 5:57
  • @Tomalak seems to be one of many cases in the English language where there is a rule, and way too many exceptions for the rule.
    – ZomoXYZ
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 14:47

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