A plural possessive noun represents more than one thing or person, place, or thing and shows ownership. Let's look at how you make a noun plural and possessive, as well as the rules that apply to their uses.
Plural Possessive Noun
As you've probably learned in school, a noun is a person, place, thing or idea. In English, nouns are most often used as the subject of a sentence (which does the action) and/or the object (which the action is done to). For example, consider this sentence:
The cat chased the dog around the house last night.
The noun "cat" is the subject (the thing doing the chasing) and the noun "dog" is the object (the thing being chased). If you need more help with the concept, we have a whole article on subjects and objects.
Nouns are either singular or plural, depending on whether there is one or many of the thing in question. "Cat" is a singular noun. "Cats" is a plural noun.
What Is a Plural Possessive Noun?
After that quick review, it's time to talk about plural possessive nouns. A plural possessive noun is exactly what it sounds like: a plural noun with a possessive ending to show ownership. For example, take this sentence:
We got our cats' beds from the store.
Here, the noun "cats'" is neither the subject (which is "we") nor the object (which is "beds"). Instead, "cats'" is a plural possessive noun, showing that the object of the sentence belongs to one particular group. The beds belong to the cats. That's the fundamental idea.
How to Construct a Plural Possessive Noun
There are certain basic rules that English follows fairly consistently when it comes to constructing possessive nouns.
Plurals That End in S
Most English plurals end in S. If that's the case, to make the plural noun possessive, simply add an apostrophe. Going back to the cats' beds, we start with the singular noun cat, then pluralize it to cats, then make it possessive as cats'. Here are a few more examples:
- Treats belonging to dogs - Dogs' treats
- Management of the many stores - Stores' management
- Decision of the executives - Executives' decision
Irregular Plurals Not Ending in S
Words with irregular plurals that don't end in "s" are made possessive as if they were singular; that is, by adding an apostrophe-S. "There was a line to the men's room at the children's choral concert." Both "men" and "children" are plural, but they take an apostrophe-S as if they were singular.
- Wool of the sheep - Sheep's wool
- Will of the people - People's will
- Origin of the fungi - Fungi's origin
Hyphenated and Compound Nouns
Hyphenated and compound nouns need an apostrophe and "s" added to the last noun, like fathers-in-law's.
- History of the governors-general - Governors-general's history
- Attention belonging to the passers-by - Passers-by's attention
- Roles of the editors-in-chief - Editors-in-chief's roles
Two or More Nouns Together
If two or more nouns are joined together, acting together, then you should add an apostrophe and an "s" to only the last noun.
- Hill of Jack and Jill - Jack and Jill's hill
- Relationship of George, Jerry and Elaine - George, Jerry and Elaine's relationship
- House belonging to Mom and Dad - Mom and Dad's house
Multiple Nouns With Different Ownership
If you have two or more nouns together, but they have different ownership, each will need an apostrophe and "s" added.
- Jan and Tony own two separate cars - Jan's and Tony's cars
- George and Harriet receive separate grades - George's and Harriet's grades
- Matilda, Yvette, and Marianne have different ambitions - Matilda's, Yvette's, and Marianne's ambitions
Types of Nouns
Nouns are words that name people, places, things, and ideas. There are different ways to categorize them, and many nouns will fit into several categories. For example, "dog" is a common, countable, concrete noun. Continue on for an explanation of these and other kinds of nouns.
- Concrete nouns refer to things that can be perceived through the senses. The vast majority of nouns are concrete: bricks, trees, unicycles, zeppelins.
- Abstract nouns refer to things that cannot be perceived directly by the senses. Examples include liberty, peace and thought.
- Collective nouns represents a group of things or people. Since the noun refers to the group as a single whole, it's treated as singular. Of course, if there's more than one group, it takes the plural. Examples include family, class, faculty, and society.
- Common nouns are your run-of-the-mill nouns. Everyday things go in this group, like: cat, moon, daisy, boys, forest, and power.
- Countable and uncountable nouns are pretty easy to figure out. Countable nouns can be counted, like books, trees, miles, girls, and buildings. Uncountable nouns and things that can't be counted, like glory or horror.
- Proper nouns are names referring to a specific person, place, thing, or idea. They are always capitalized. These include Kentucky, Arianna, and The Great Gatsby.
All the nouns in these groups consistently follow the plural possessive rules described above.
Nouns to Remember
The two key points to a plural possessive noun are that it represents more than one of itself and it shows ownership. Follow the rules detailed above and you'll have mastered plural possessive nouns in no time.
For more on oddities among nouns, take a look at our in-depth exploration of irregular plurals. Can you apply what you learned about possessive nouns to this group?