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If we specify an item, and its multiple elements underneath, should we use

  1. child elements, or
  2. children elements

? Are they both acceptable? And if we just use one word, then "children" is the correct word? (the parent element and its children).

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In the phrase child elements, child is essentially an adjective modifying elements.

Adjectives in English do not change to harmonize with the plurality or any other aspect of nouns as done in other languages. So it would remain child.

And if we just use one word, then "children" is the correct word? (the parent element and its children).

Yes, in this case, since you're using child as a noun and not an adjective/modifier, you'd change it for plurality.

  • then it is even harder verbally: sometimes we may say "the element and its children" and feel it is better to add the word "elements" to it, and we have already said "children" -- cannot backspace to say child. – nonopolarity Jan 3 '20 at 16:29
  • There's nothing "hard" or "unusual" about referring to an element and its child elements in English. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 3 '20 at 16:33
  • @nopole Lol. Don't get married to the beginning of a sentence if it dooms the rest of it. There's nothing wrong with the element and its children (in the right context), however. – user3395 Jan 3 '20 at 16:33
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    @userr2684291: As a programmer, I'm really familiar with both those forms (child elements / children), so nothing "jars". I can't really say the same about daughters for daughter cells in the biology context though (it's just a bit too "inappropriately anthropomorphic" for me). And this NGram seems to agree. – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica Jan 3 '20 at 16:43

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