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Plural and Possessive Nouns Help (page 2)

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Updated on Sep 8, 2011

Singular Possessives

Look at the sentence the bird nests had eggs inside. The word nests, while it ends with -s, is plural, not possessive. To make nest or any singular noun possessive, add an apostrophe and -s ('s) to the end, as in child/child's, bread/bread's, or music/music's.

Example:

The child's older sister was my neighbor's friend's babysitter.

What this sentence tells us is that the older sister of the child was the babysitter of the friend of my neighbor.

In other words, the sister "belonged" to the child, the friend "belonged" to the neighbor, and the neighbor "belonged" to me.

Plural Possessives

Making a plural noun possessive is a bit different. Most plural nouns end with -s, except for irregular nouns (see page 20) like mouse/mice, child/children, man/men, deer/deer, and so on. With a regular noun, simply add an apostrophe after the -s (s'), as in girls/girls', schools/schools', or newspapers/newspapers'.

Example:

The districts' administrators' secretaries' contracts were approved.

This sentence tells us that the contracts of the secretaries of the administrators of the district were approved. In other words, the administrators "belonged" to the district, the secretaries "belonged" to the administrators, and the contracts "belonged" to the secretaries.

Irregular nouns, such as teeth or people, are treated like singular nouns, and -'s is added to form their possessives.

Example:

The geese's V formation in the sky was impressive as they flew overhead.

Tip: When you are confronted with a singular noun ending in -s, and you need to make it possessive, you can do one of two things: add -'s or add an apostrophe after the -s.

Examples:

Tess's new shoes hurt her feet, but she wore them anyway.

Tess' new shoes hurt her feet, but she wore them anyway.

Some words sound awkward with the added -s at the end (Moses's, Dickens's, Williams's, etc.). It is recommended that you simply add an apostrophe after the -s at the end of such names, but the matter is left to your discretion.

Plurals Formed with 's

What's a rule without an exception? There are a few instances where you may need to use apostrophe -s (-'s) to make a plural. For example, you should add -'s to pluralize an abbreviation that has more than one period, such as Ph.D. or M.D.

Example:

M.D.'s and Ph.D.'s denote doctorates in medicine and philosophy.

Also, when you need to write an expression with words and letters that usually are not seen in the plural form—like if , and , or but, or P and Q—add -'s to the word or letter.

Example:

There are no if's, and's, or but's about it, she won't be going to the concert tomorrow. She should have minded her P's and Q's and kept her comments to herself.

Tip: You make some single-letter abbreviations plural by doubling the letter: p (page)/pp (pages), l (line)/ll (lines). Other abbreviations, like units of measure, do not change to become plural: 1 km (kilometer)/10 km (kilometers), 1 in. (inch)/6 in. (inches).

 Exercises for this concept can be found at Plural and Possessive Nouns Practice.

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