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  1. Fire extinguish systems
  2. Fire extinguishing systems.

Can you tell me why #2 should be used instead #1? Or do you use the 1 as well?

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Extinguish is a verb, and in English it is very rare to use a verb as an 'attributive'; so fire extinguish systems is not a conventional construction.

  • ADDED: I'm sure there must be instances in which the bare uninflected form of a verb is used attributively—it's hard to imagine that anything possible in English hasn't been realized at least once!—but off the top of my head I can't think of a single one, and I find no mention of the possibility in a quick examination of CGEL. There are a few attributive phrases in which a plain-form verb is the 'head': carry-out food, pickup truck, no-fly zone; but a phrase is not a verb. There are also verb-noun compounds like playboy and swearword and workman; but these are all pronounced with a distinct falling cadence which is easily distinguished from the level prosody of modifier + noun. Perhaps readers can supply a common example.

Attributive nouns, however, are very common; so in this sort of construction we use the gerund of the verb, the -ing form, which may act as a noun in many contexts.


before an utterance marks it as unacceptable.

  • Thanks. But you do have the usage of the first form, don't you? I can't remember the words. Can you explain further if you can think of some? – Joe Kim Jun 15 '15 at 20:28
  • @JoeKim See my ADDED paragraph. – StoneyB on hiatus Jun 15 '15 at 21:56
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To begin with, a hyphen should be used to create a compound adjectival phrase.

The problem in this case is that the verb "extinguish" does not have a common noun form, so using the participle ("fire-extinguishing") is the best of a bad set of choices.

Note that "suppress" does have a common noun form, "suppression", and "a fire-suppression system" does sound natural.

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