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Ok, you understand the plural and you understand the possessive, but what about the plural possessive?

While most writers have mastered how to make a noun plural and how to make it possessive, doing both often causes confusion. Here then is a simple primer (although as with most rules in English, numerous exceptions apply).

  • Add an apostrophe followed by “s” (‘s) to the end of a noun to make it possessive if the noun is singular—it does not matter if the noun already ends in “s.” For example, “Dr. Seuss’s books are popular.”
  • Add just an apostrophe and no “s” if the noun is plural, possessive, and already ends in “s.” For example, “Telecenters’ services are vital in many communities in developing countries.”

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7 Responses to Ok, you understand the plural and you understand the possessive, but what about the plural possessive?

  1. Mike August 20, 2007 at 5:35 pm #

    I am confused by conflicting answers I have found. If the family has the last name of Robinson, would it be the Robinsons’ home, or the Robinson’s home? Many people live there, but it is one family. Also, The sign outside the home should simply read, THE ROBINSONS, correct? (No apostrophe needed?) Sounds nutty, but I am going crazy over this issue! Help me!

  2. Zach Everson August 20, 2007 at 5:56 pm #

    Interesting questions Mike.

    The house would be called “the Robinsons’ home” as more than one person with that last name lives there.

    As for the sign, either “The Robinsons” or “The Robinsons'” could be correct. They’d use the first one (plural, not possessive) if the sign referred to the family. The second one (plural and possessive), however, is appropriate if the sign pertains to the house.

  3. Ray Blake October 30, 2007 at 5:42 pm #

    Zach,

    Rule 2 only applies when you’re talking about a plural that ends in the letter ‘s’. Many words in English don’t. So we would, for instance, talk about “the many children’s games”, thereby adding the possessive ‘s’ to a plural noun.

    More on this at my blog here:
    http://workingonme.squarespace.com/journal/2007/10/2/how-apostrophes-work-3-simple-rules.html

  4. Zach Everson October 31, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    Good catch, Ray! I corrected the post.

  5. Marcia Joyce April 21, 2014 at 9:45 am #

    No complaint with the

  6. Marcia J. April 21, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    possesive example, but the correct spelling is Dr. Seuss’s.

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