Could some native speakers explain to me whether it is possible to use plural nouns attributively? I am writing an essay in a very technical field (aeronautics) in which I need to use contracted forms to avoid too many redundant sentences.

I would like to know if I can use this expression "wing tanks fuel" to express the concept of the fuel contained in the wing tanks of an aircraft. Should I perhaps use the genitive? Then my expression would become "wing tanks' fuel"? But I am not at all convinced that this is the right solution.

  • Technical manuals are really beyond the scope of this site. My suggestion is to consult similar manuals to see what precedents have been set in the field. Beyond that you might initially use a descriptive phrase such as the fuel stored in wing tanks, further described as wing tanks fuel, (possibly, abbreviated to "wtf"... or similar). Dec 18, 2022 at 14:05
  • We don't normally use plural attributive nouns. e.g. a horse race, not a horses race or a horses' race, even though there is more than one horse. Is there some specific reason that you want to use the plural?
    – stangdon
    Dec 18, 2022 at 15:30
  • First of all, thank you very much for your answers. In a specific manual I found the form 'wing tank fuel' but in a context where the singular form works. In my essay, it is necessary to use the plural to make the reader (students) aware that there are several fuel tanks in the wings of an aircraft. If I write wing tank fuel, the student might think that that fuel is contained in a single wing tank. But this is absolutely not true. Thanks
    – CoroCut
    Dec 19, 2022 at 8:08

1 Answer 1


Simply saying "...wing tanks fuel (WTF)" when the fuel is first mentioned, would allow you to refer to it as WTF from then on.

That's the most concise solution, and I'd advise you to ignore any giggles at the letters WTF!

Alternatively, if the plurality of the tanks can be taken for granted, then "wing tank fuel" would be simpler and would prevent any possible confusion about your "s" being genitive or plural. At its first mention you could then say,

...henceforth referred to as "wing tank fuel".

  • The plurality of the tanks is not granted, because the text is adressed to students who are not yet familiar with the subject. I think the abbreviation wtf is not particularly appropriate in this context and makes no sense in the aeronautical field.
    – CoroCut
    Dec 19, 2022 at 8:22
  • This is an example taken from the text: "Therefore, with swept-back wings and only one integral tank per wing, the centre of gravity of the wing tanks fuel gradually moves forward as the flight progresses". Please, help me! I'm very confused.
    – CoroCut
    Dec 19, 2022 at 8:26
  • ...the centre of gravity of any wing tank fuel/...of the fuel in these tanks (or ...in this tank) gradually moves forward... I think "WTF" WOULD make sense once you've defined it. Dec 19, 2022 at 14:46

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