Adjective pluralization

  1. A 16-year-old girl.
  2. She is 16 years old.

I’ve read somewhere that the reason the year in the first example is singular is that it functions as an adjective, and adjectives can’t be plural.

Looking at the second example, doesn’t the years also function as an adjective? If so, why is it in plural form?

Answer

A 16-year-old girl:
1) “16” and “year” are linked by the hyphen to create a single term (“16-year”) that modifies “old.”
2) “16-year” and “old” are linked by the hyphen to create a single term (“16-year-old”) that modifies “girl.”

She is 16 years old:
1) “old” is a predicate adjective for “girl.” (as in “She is old.”) As a single-word adjective for “she,” it is not joined with a hyphen to the previous adjective, “years.”
2) “years” modifies “old,” and “16” modifies “year. “16” and “years” are not acting as a single adjective for “old,” so they, too, do not need a hyphen.

The easy way:
If the adjective string serves as a single modifier before the noun, it needs a hyphen (or hyphens, as in this case). If it is after the noun, it doesn’t need a hyphen (or hyphens).

This is the same as “3-day weekend” and “The weekend has 3 days.” In the first case, “3” and “day” are linked to create a single term that modifies “weekend.” In the second case, “days” is the object of “has,” and “3” is a modifier for “days.”

Attribution
Source : Link , Question Author : Sherlock , Answer Author : David Bowman

Leave a Comment