Plurals, Possession and Contractions

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,137 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
edited March 2016 in Writing

Plurals, possession and contractions create many problems in the English language :'(.

When to add simply an -s, when to add 's (or s'), and what are the different meanings associated with this letter?

The general rule is that we add an -s to words to make them plural in English, and we add an 's or an s' to make the word possessive. For example:

  • one dog, two dogs;
  • the dog's bone (one dog, one bone),
  • the dog's bones (one dog, many bones) and
  • the dogs' bones (many dogs, many bones).

Many common words have irregular plural forms which must simply be memorised:

  • One man, several men, one woman, a group of women. Their possessive form is formed in the same way: the man's coat, the men's coats (notice the position of the 's); the woman's children (one woman, many children), the women's children (many women, many children).

This method is the same for proper names: 

  • Samuel Jackson has a hat, it is Samuel Jackson's hat. He has a wife and two children, so they are the Jacksons. Every year they have a party and invite their friends to the Jacksons' house.

It's and its can be more complicated. 

  • It's means it is, while its is the possessive form. 'It's a nice day for a walk' means it is, while 'The dog chews its bone' means that the dog possesses the bone.

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