Center for Writers - Resources

NOUNS - PLURAL AND POSSESSIVE


Noun - names a person, place, thing, or idea. There are proper nouns ( specific people,
        places, or things - first letter is always capitalized), there are common nouns (general
        groups, places, people, or things), there are concrete nouns (things experienced through
        the senses: sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch), there are abstract nouns (things not
        knowable through the senses), there are collective nouns (groups; such as "family,"
        "team," and "committee") and there are mass nouns ("uncountable" things; such as
        "water," and "time").

Knowing how to form plurals:

            Regular plurals use an added -s, in most cases: leg, legs; desk, desks.

                    - When a word ends in -ch, -s, -sh, -s, or -z, pronunciation demands that -es be
                                added: beach, beaches; iris, irises.

                    - Most words ending in o become plural with the addition of -s: alto, altos; radio,
                                radios.

                    - A few words ending in o preceded by a consonant take either -s or -es (always
                                be consistent in the form you use); cargo, cargoes, cargos; volcano,
                                volcanoes, volcanos.

Plurals or words ending in f or fe, use a v in place of the f, in most cases: leaf, leaves; loaf,
        loaves; wife, wives. Three exceptions to this rule: belief, beliefs; motif, motifs; safe,
        safes. These exceptions avoid confusion with the singular verbs believes and saves and
        with the plural noun motives.

                    - When a word ends in ff or ffe, simply add -s: giraffe, giraffes; staff, staffs.

Plurals formed by internal changes do not use the added -s or -es: child, children; foot, feet;
        man, men.

Plurals that retain their singular form are spelled the same whether they are being used in a
        singular or plural sense. Usually they are the names of animals or grains: deer, elk, fish,
        quail, rice, wheat.

POSSESSIVES

Add -'s to show possession when nouns and indefinite pronouns do not end in 's.
        Example:        The dean's duties included working closely with the resident assistants.

Add -'s to show possession when singular nouns end in -s.
        Example:        That business's system for handling complaints is inefficient.

Use on an apostrophe to show possession when a plural noun ends in -s.
        Example:        Three months' maternity leave is in the workers' contract.

Add -'s to the last word in compound words and phrases.
        Example: The tennis player's strategy was brilliant.

Add -'s to each noun in individual possession.
        Example: Olga's and Joanne's books are valuable.

Add -'s to only the last noun in joint or group possession.
        Example: Anne Smith and Glen Smith's article on solar heating interests me.

Possessive Forms of Personal Pronouns
Some pronouns have specific possessive forms. Do not use an apostrophe with these forms.
        Example:        he, his; she, her, hers; it, its; we, our, ours; they, their, theirs.

Be especially alert to it's and its, as well as who's and whose, which are frequently confused.

        It's is the contraction for it is. example: It's going to be hard to win the race.
        Its is the possessive of it. example: The dog chased its tail.
        Who's is the contraction for who is. example: Who's going to lock the door?
        Whose is the possessive. example: Whose coat is on the floor?

        CAUTION: The following forms are nonstandard, so do not use them: its', his', hers',
                    yours', theirs', whos'.