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[Grammar] Article 8 Plurals and Possessives


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Plurals and Possessives

The plural form of most nouns is usually represented by adding s or es to the singular.


The possessive case is used to indicate a relationship. A possessive pronoun is a word that attributes ownership to someone or something without using a noun.





  • The most common ending for a plural is an s added to the singular.

    • report ----> reports
    • committee -> committees
    • manager ---> managers
    • idea ------> ideas

  • Some nouns have a word ending that would make the s difficult or impossible to pronounce. Nouns ending in s, x, ch, sh, or z generally require an es added to the singular.

    • process -------> processes
    • tax -----------> taxes
    • brush ---------> brushes
    • church --------> churches
    • buzz ----------> buzzes

  • Nouns ending in y have two possibilities.

    • If the singular noun ends in y preceded by a consonant, change the y to i and add es.

      • copy ---------> copies
      • disability ---> disabilities
      • liability ----> liabilities

  • If the singular noun ends in y preceded by a vowel, simply add s.

    • attorney ---> attorneys
    • delay ------> delays
    • boy --------> boys

  • Plurals for nouns ending in o can be formed in two ways.

    • If the singular noun ends in o preceded by a vowel, add s.

      • tattoo ----> tattoos
      • ratio -----> ratios
      • portfolio -> portfolios
      • stereo ----> stereos

  • However, if the singular noun ends in o preceded by a consonant, there are several possibilities.

    • Some o nouns add only an s.
    • auto ----> autos
    • ego -----> egos
    • memo ----> memos

  • Some o nouns add es.

    • potato ----> potatoes
    • echo ------> echoes
    • hero ------> heroes

  • Some o nouns are acceptable either way. The first in each pair is the preferred spelling.

    • cargo -------> cargoes, cargos
    • innuendo ----> innuendos, innuendoes.
    • zero --------> zeros, zeroes

  • Musical terms ending in o usually add only s to the singular.

    • alto ----> altos
    • cello ---> cellos
    • soprano -> sopranos
    • piano ---> pianos

  • Nouns ending in f, fe, or ff.

    • Most nouns ending in f combinations add only s to the singular.
    • belief ---> beliefs
    • proof ----> proofs

  • Some f nouns change the f or fe to ve and then add s.

    • knife ----> knives
    • life -----> lives
    • wife -----> wives
    • self -----> selves

  • Some are acceptable either way. Again, the first in each pair in is the preferred spelling.

    • scarf --> scarves, scarfs
    • dwarf --> dwarfs,, dwarves

  • Compound plurals are made plural by using several methods.

    • Solid-word compounds are made plural at the end.
    • toothbrush ---> toothbrushes
    • photocopy ----> photocopies
    • bookshelf ----> bookshelves

  • Compounds that are spaced or hyphenated generally make the most important element plural.

    • leave of absence --> leaves of absence
    • editor-in-chief ---> editors-in-chief
    • father-in-law -----> fathers-in-law

Caution: I have two sisters-in-law, not two sister-in-laws. But I went to my sister-in-law's house for Thanksgiving.

  • Compounds with no noun simply make the final element plural.

    • fade-out ------> fade-outs
    • know-it-all ---> Know-it-alls
    • get-together --> get-togethers
    • go-between ----> go-betweens

  • Compounds that have a possessive as the first element make only the final element plural.

    • finder's fee -----> finder's fees
    • traveler's check -> traveler's checks

  • Acronyms and capital letters require only an s to create the plural.

    • three VIPs --> CEOs ---> Ph.D.s --> PTA's

  • Irregular plurals change their spelling completely.

    • mouse ---> mice
    • woman ---> women
    • foot ----> feet

  • A few plurals end in en or ren.

    • ox ----> oxen
    • child -> children


Singular nouns and possession.



  • Any singular noun not ending in s or an s sound adds an apostrophe plus s.

    • lawyer's advice.
    • Arkansas's farmlands
    • Illinois's toll roads

  • Any singular noun that ends in the sound s, x, or z is affected by how it's pronounced.
  • If you add an extra syllable, and an apostrophe plus s.

    • boss's approval
    • witness's testimony
    • quiz's coversheet
    • Phoenix's transportation system

  • If you can't easily pronounce the word with an additional syllable, add only an apostrophe.

    • Ms. Hastings' office
    • Los Angeles' freeways
    • New Orleans' shopping district

      • Caution: It's Bridget Jones' Diary, not Bridget Jones's Diary

Plural nouns and possession


  • Any plural noun with a regular spelling (ending in s or es) adds only an apostrophe for possession.

    • witnesses' testimonies
    • agencies' guidelines
    • United States' allies
    • attorneys' fees

  • All regular plural possessives add an apostrophe plus s.

    • children's books
    • men's suits
    • women's dress department
    • Caution: Always form the plural first and then decide how the possession should be spelled.
    • Incorrect: Toys are located in the children's department.
    • Correct: Toys are located in the children's department.

Compound nouns and possession



  • Singular possessives of any compound noun (solid, spaced, or hyphenated) require an apostrophe plus s.

    • stockbroker's portfolio
    • daughter-in-law's new house.
    • attorney general's office.

  • Plural possessives for compound nouns require you to first form the plural, then:

    • If the plural form ends in s, and an apostrophe only.

      • stockbrokers' proxies
      • vice presidents' votes
      • salesclerks' commissions

    • If the plural form does not end in s, add an apostrophe plus s.

      • daughter-in-law's children
      • presidents-elect's teams

  • Pronouns have their own special form. Do not use apostrophes!

    • my, mine --- your, yours ---- his, her, hers, its ---- our, ours ---- their, theirs ---- whose

Caution: Whose is a pronoun, while who's is a contraction for 'who is.'

Incorrect: He is the man who's son goes to K-State.

Correct: He is the man whose son goes to K-State.

  • Common expressions

    • New Year's resolutions
    • stone's throw
    • arm's length
    • sun's rays
    • company's assets
    • earth's atmosphere.

Exercise - Plurals and Possessives

Write the possessive forms of the following words.


1. boss assistant (one boss)


2. bosses assistants (several bosses)


3. mother-in-law house


4. people coats (coats of several people)


5. manager report (one manager)


6. managers reports (several managers)

Edited by TalonRider
To clean up coding problem.
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  • Site Administrator

Just as an aside, one of the teachers at my boys' school told me that the reason for the "copy" to "copies" behaviour is that the word is supposed to be "copi", but in English words are not allowed to end in "i", so it is changed to a "y". When the word no longer ends in the "i" (such as when it is made plural"), the "i" reappears. Another letter that English words can't end with is "v", which is changed to an "fe" or "f" and hence why the plural of "knife" is "knives".

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  • Site Moderator
How is the Jones' pronounced? It strikes me that monosyllabic names ending in s, you must still add the additional syllable in pronounciation. So it sounds like Jones-es. Is this correct?



I do believe that would be correct Conner.



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Exercise - Plurals and Possessives

Write the possessive forms of the following words.


1. boss assistant (one boss) boss's assistant


2. bosses assistants (several bosses) bosses' assistants


3. mother-in-law house mother-in-law's house


4. people coats (coats of several people) people's coats


5. manager report (one manager) manager's report


6. managers reports (several managers) managers' reports

Edited by TalonRider
To clean up coding problem.
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