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123456 posted:

I'm struggling to find out whether it's possible to to use a decade as an adjective. For example, '1920s New York' or '1980s Russia'.

Hello, Onethrusix, and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

Phrases like "1920s New York" and "1980s Russia" are grammatically acceptable.

In such phrases, the decade functions as an adjectival modifier, not an adjective.

"1920s New York" = "the New York of the 1920s" or "New York in the 1920s."

Examples also abound with "music"; e.g., "eighties music" = music of the 1980s.

@Laura G. posted:

When you use a decade as adjectival modifier, however, would it then have an apostrophe? I know the decade itself is referred to as the 1920s without an apostrophe, but if you are using the decade to describe New York, would it not be 1920's New York? As in the New York the belonged to the 1920s?

Hello, Laura G., and welcome to the Grammar Exchange.

If you follow the stylistic advice that no apostrophe should be used in the spelling of the decade itself, then there is no reason to add an apostrophe when it is functioning as an adjectival modifier.

Incidentally, notice that if 1920s were to be made possessive, the spelling would be 1920s' (with the apostrphe after the s), not 1920's. Interpreted as a possessive, the form 1920's is the possessive of 1920.

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