bolt lengths/ bolts lengths/ bolts length [plural modifier]

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JohnLL

New Member
Persian
my question is simple, but seems the answer is not!

lets assume that we are talking about the length of several bolts..

which is correct and why?
"The bolt lengths shall be checked before any purchase."
"The bolts lengths shall be checked before any purchase."
"The bolts length shall be checked before any purchase."

Is there any rule that in special occasions, the "bolt", the "length" or both shall be plural?
 
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  • Fabulist

    Banned
    American English
    You asked about a "plural modifier." Many other Indo-European languages—perhaps including Persian—inflect adjectives, using different forms according to whether the nouns they modify are singular or plural (and in some languages according to the grammatical case of the noun). English does not do this under any circumstances.In your examples, "length" or "lengths" is being modified by another noun, not an adjective. However, English treats such an "attributive" noun just like an adjective and never changes it according to the number (singular/plural) of the noun it modifies. Therefore:

    One bolt length
    Two bolt lengths
    A thousand different bolt lengths for a thousand different uses

    If one bolt is 12mm long and another one is 15mm long, you have two bolt lengths. Even if both bolts are 12mm long, you still have two bolt lengths to check if you do not already know that they are the same. If you are buying your bolts by taking them out of a tub that contains bolts of many different sizes, then you should check the lengths of all of the bolts you buy, or check all of your bolt lengths. You can also tell someone who is going to buy some bolts for you, "Check the length of each bolt" or "Check each bolt length." Since "bolt" in this case is singular, so is its length. And no matter how many lengths your bolts have, if you use "bolt" to describe "length," you never put an "s" on it.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I would avoid this decision and go for

    "The length of the bolt shall be checked before any purchase."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    There is probably more than one bolt, so:
    The length of the bolts shall be checked ...
    That applies no matter how many acceptable lengths there might be. We intend to check the length of every bolt.

    You could, perhaps, say The bolts' lengths shall be checked...
    ... but that seems a little strange.
     

    grubble

    Senior Member
    British English
    It has nearly all been said but, returning to your original examples:

    "The bolt lengths shall be checked before any purchase." :tick:
    "The bolts lengths shall be checked before any purchase." :cross:
    "The bolts length shall be checked before any purchase." :cross:
    The following are also possible:
    "The bolts' lengths shall be checked before any purchase." :tick: As per panjandrum (Notice the apostrophe)
    "The bolt's length shall be checked before any purchase." :tick: (apostrophe) There is only one bolt.


    In English we talk about a "stone wall" and the plural is "stone walls". The word "stone" is an adjectival noun.

    When we talk about a "bolt length" the plural is "bolt lengths". The word "bolt" is an adjectival noun describing length.

    Example:

    "Which lengths should we measure?"
    "You must measure the bolt lengths and the cord lengths."

    or
    "You must measure the bolt and cord lengths."
     
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