Grammar Plural Possessive Noun |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Plural Possessive Noun

A plural possessive noun is a plural noun that indicates ownership of something.

Example

The dog’s food is in the bag on the floor. (singular possessive: one dog)

The dogs’ food is in the bag on the floor. (plural possessive: multiple dogs)

In the two sentences, the nouns dog and dogs are neither the subjects nor the objects. Rather, both words are nouns that identify the owner of the subject (food).

The first sentence includes a singular possessive (dog’s): The food belongs to one dog. The second sentence tells us that the food belongs to more than one dog by means of a plural possessive noun, dogs’.

Forming a Plural Possessive Noun

To make a plural possessive noun, first form the plural of the singular noun. Many singular nouns can be made plural by adding -s or -es to the end of the noun: string > strings, car > cars, church > churches, glass > glasses.

Some nouns are irregular, so they form the plural in ways other than by adding -s or -es: loaf > loaves, mouse > mice, man > men, foot > feet.

After you have formed the plural of the noun, add an apostrophe () if the plural noun ends in -s or -es: strings’, cars’, churches’, loaves’. If the plural noun does not end in -s, add an apostrophe and an s: mice’s, men’s, feet’s.

Let’s look at more examples of both regular and irregular plural possessive nouns:

I really like the string’s sound on that guitar. (singular possessive)
I really like the strings’ sound on that guitar. (plural possessive)

The glass’s fragments left a glittering trail on the floor. (singular possessive)
Have you seen the churches’ stained-glass windows?(plural possessive)

Have you seen the church’s stained-glass windows? (singular possessive)
Have you seen the churches’ stained-glass windows?(plural possessive)

What is the foot’s purpose for that table? (singular possessive)
What is the feet’s purpose for that table? (plural possessive)

Note that some irregular plural nouns are the same as their singular forms (e.g., aircraft, deer, sheep, furniture). In these cases, we would apply the same principles for forming the plural possessive for a noun that does not end in -s.

Examples

Both aircraft’s engines have been checked.

The three deer’s hoof tracks are all in the same spot.

The furniture’s prices appear on their tags.

Some animal nouns also might form the plural by either maintaining the singular or adding -s or -es: shrimp > shrimp or shrimps, fish > fish or fishes. Once again we would treat the plural possessive form according to the word’s ending as we’ve discussed:

You can put the shrimp’s tails in that bowl.
You can put the shrimps’ tails in that bowl.

We could see the fish’s eyes as their school swam past us.
We could see the fishes’ eyes as their school swam past us.

Plural Possessive: Multiple Nouns

If two or more nouns have ownership of another noun together, we would express that ownership by making only the last noun of the group possessive.

Jack, Jill, and Jerry’s water pail is at the top of the hill. (The pail belongs to all of them.)

The lawyers are reviewing the players and managers’ contract. (The contract belongs to the players and managers jointly.)

If two or more nouns each have their own separate possession of one or more nouns, we would make each noun of ownership possessive.

Jack’s, Jill’s, and Jerry’s water pails are at the top of the hill. (They all have their own pails.)

The lawyers are reviewing the players’ and managers’ contracts. (The players and managers have their own contracts.)

Plural Possessive: Hyphenated and Compound Nouns

Some plural nouns are formed by making the first word in the phrase plural: sisters-in-law, passers-by, attorneys at large. In these cases, we would form the plural possessive by making the last word in the phrase possessive: sisters-in-law’s, passers-by’s, attorneys at large’s.

The sisters-in-law’s relationships with one another are healthy and strong.

The passers-by’s testimonies about the incident will be included in the investigation.

Related Topics

Possessive Pronouns
Apostrophes and Proper Nouns

Pop Quiz

Provide the plural possessive noun for each singular noun in parentheses.

1. The (truck) tires need to be changed.

2. You will find that scarf in the (woman) department.

3. I can see the (mouse) crumbs on the floor.

4. (Robin and Jolene) TV is still in the box.

5. We still have to ask about the (father-in-law) opinions.

 

Pop Quiz Answers

1. The trucks’ tires need to be changed.

2. You will find that scarf in the women’s department.

3. I can see the mice’s crumbs on the floor.

4. Robin and Jolene’s TV is still in the box.

5. We still have to ask about the fathers-in-law’s opinions.

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4 responses to “Plural Possessive Noun”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Merriam-Webster and OED write “passersby,” not “passers-by.”

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      Cambridge Dictionary and Collins both write “passers-by.” American Heritage allows for either spelling. It is a style choice.

  2. Dusty says:

    1. My grandparent’s / grandparents’ house is on Lumley Road.
    (Are both grandparent’s and grandparents’ correct in this sentence?)

    2. A: My sneakers are old. I need new ones. What about these?
    B: These sneakers are for women. The men’s / mens’ sneakers are over there.
    (Is “men’s” an adjective in this sentence?)

    • GrammarBook.com says:

      If you are referring to one grandparent, write “grandparent’s house.” If more than one grandparent is living there, write “grandparents’ house.”
      The sentences in your second example are grammatically correct.
      The adjective “men’s” is correct.

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