Plural vs. Possessive - Darton State College

Online Writing Center
Darton State College
The plural form of a noun* indicates two or
more of a thing or person or idea.
◦ tree-trees, medium-media, woman-women
The possessive form of a noun shows
ownership or possession.
◦ George-George’s, book-book’s, girl-girl’s
◦ Parsons-Parsons’, books-books’, girls-girls’
* See more on plural nouns in “Nouns” in the Online Writing Center.
To form the possessive case of most singular
nouns and indefinite pronouns, add ‘s.
Thomas Hardy’s novels
the phone’s ring tone
the mayor’s request
the theory’s origin
When a singular noun ends with an “s” letter
or sound and has two or more syllables, add
the apostrophe only:
◦ Brutus’ actions
◦ the Netherlands’ royal family
◦ Anthony Burgess’ novels
To form the possessive case of a regular plural
noun, first add “s” to make the noun plural, and
then add the ‘.
◦ dog (singular noun): The dog is mine.
◦ dogs (plural noun): The dogs are mine.
◦ dogs’ (plural possessive noun):
The dogs’ tails are bushy.
Some nouns are plural but do not end in “s.” Add
“s” and the apostrophe to make them possessive:
◦ the deer’s antlers
◦ the women’s movement
anyone: This is anyone’s game.
everybody: Everybody’s patience is fading.
no one: No one’s answers were correct.
one: One’s desires are not always fulfilled.
* See more about indefinite pronouns in “Pronouns” in the Online
Writing Center.
In compound words (two or more words
signaling one entity), the last word receives
the possessive mark:
◦ My mother-in-law’s pies are delicious.
◦ My mother-in-laws’ (two mothers-in-law) pies are
◦ We unanimously accepted the Portsmouth City
Council’s decisions.
◦ Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon’s famous line of
On the previous slide, you saw this sentence:
◦ Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon’s famous line of
◦ In this sentence, Mason and Dixon are both “owner” or
creators of the famous line known as the Mason-Dixon
Line. Therefore, only the second name receives the
possessive marker.
However, when individual possession needs to be
shown, then all entities receive the possessive
◦ Newton’s and Leibnitz’ contentious battle over the
invention of calculus is a famous episode in the world of
Odell, Lee, Richard Vacca, and Renee Hobbs. Elements of
Language. 6th course. Austin, Holt, Rinehart, and
Winston, 2001. Print.