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a. People over-twenty-one will have to pay full price.

b. Over-twenty-one people will have to pay full price.

c. Were there any people over-twenty-one who did not pay full price?

d. Were there any over-twenty-one people who did not pay full price?

In which of the above sentences 'over-twenty-one' is in the correct place?

I think if one heard (b) one might get the wrong impression that the intended meaning is that more than twenty-one people will have to pay full price. I am not sure the sentence works.

Many thanks.

2 Answers 2

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AME speaker, I would say that both a and c are correct. This is a case where it's used as a set phrase (being a shortened form of "people over 21 years of age"). And because of that the "over-21 people" form simply does not work.

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  • 1
    Personally, I think (c) makes more sense than (a), which I think should read "people over twenty-one..."
    – jtb
    Mar 12, 2023 at 4:07
  • 2
    The first hyphen is wrong in both cases. Mar 12, 2023 at 9:09
  • 1
    @Kate Bunting: agreed, I am blind and didn't even realize the hyphen is present in those cases. Mar 12, 2023 at 15:54
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The question itself feels a bit off to me.

The correct options here would look like one of the following.

  1. People over twenty-one will have to pay full price.
  2. Were there any people over twenty-one who did not pay full price?

Just in case, we have an explainer and quiz on word order here.

UPD: This account is affiliated with grammarerror.com.

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  • IT might be obvious from your username, but please read through this and please disclose your affiliation in your post (you can edit it).
    – Joachim
    Apr 26, 2023 at 23:22

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