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I am confused by a sentence in the preface of a writing textbook.

This style complements our strong student-based approach to writing, and together they help create a text that genuinely meets student needs.

Should it be "meets student's needs" or "meet students' needs" here? Am I missing something or it's just a bug?

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    I'd say that both are possible. The difference is one of syntax: in "student needs", the noun "student" is functioning as modifier of "needs", while in the genitive "students' needs", it is functioning as determiner of "needs". – BillJ Jul 3 '18 at 8:05
  • This could be rewritten as: …create a text that genuinely meet(s) the needs of students… (aka subjunctive mood – Mari-Lou A Jul 3 '18 at 9:07
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The expression

meets student needs

is correct English. They are using the word student as an adjective, as they would were they to write student guide. Although they could have alternatively written it using the genitive case as meets students' needs, it would seem that they have chosen to write it in this simpler form.

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    I just learned that the technical term here is called "noun adjunct" or "attributive noun" or "noun (pre)modifier". It's actually very common, as in "chicken soup" or "car accident." I should've been familiar with it, but somehow my native tongue made me want to emphasize the possessive relation here. – szx917 Jul 3 '18 at 8:58
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    @szx917 Modifier is the usual term for the "student" in "student needs". Adjunct is used for modifiers or supplements in clause structure. The NP "students needs" is also perfectly acceptable, though the genitive NP "students'" is not a modifier here but a determiner. – BillJ Jul 3 '18 at 11:27
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This is correct grammar. To rephrase for clarity:

...and together they help create a text that genuinely meets the needs of a student.

I would agree with you that the choice to meet a single student's needs is an odd one. But one cannot quibble with the authors' intended meaning. Perhaps they wrote this book only for Rosa in seat 14!

I'm joking, of course. The authors probably chose to use the singular "student needs" to align with the earlier singular usage in "student-focused". In their view, it would be awkward to switch from singular to plural or plural possessive. However, I agree with you. If they are trying to appeal to the needs of all the students, they should have said it plainly,

...and together they help create a text that genuinely meets the students' needs.

That said, there is nothing grammatically incorrect in their choice.

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  • I guess here "student need" is treated as a whole here. – szx917 Jul 3 '18 at 9:02

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