English Corner – Possessive Nouns

Being able to discuss ownership in English over a person, place, or thing is quite key when it comes to developing your grammar proficiency. In order to do that, you must be able to understand, use, and master possessive nouns. The function of possessive nouns is to essentially demonstrate ownership or some similar relationship over something else. Plural nouns indicate more than one person, place or thing. Listed below is a key hint about how to create the possessive noun as well as the five key rules that you can utilize in order to figure out if there is ownership of an object or not.

When you’re unsure of how to find the ‘possessive noun’ you have to look for the Apostrophe! Possessive nouns typically include an apostrophe!

Examples:

  • Jennifer’s imagination ran wild as she pictured the horrible car accident.
  • The kitten’s toy is a stuffed mouse, which she plays with every day.

You should be able to think of the apostrophe mark as a ‘hook’ reaching out to take possession of the object or person involved. Without the little hook or hand grabbing onto the ‘s’ or the next word, the noun is in its’ plural form simply but not actually possessive of anything or anyone.

In addition to looking out for the apostrophe to indicate that the noun is possessive, there are five major grammar rules for possessive nouns to understand and use.

Grammar Rules for Possessive Nouns

There are five basic grammar rules that cover the majority of times where writers encounter possessive nouns.

Rule #1: Making singular nouns possessive

You must add an apostrophe (‘) + s to most singular nouns and to plural nouns that do not end in the letter -s.

You’ll use this rule the most, so pay particular attention to it. English has some words that are plural but do not add the letter ‘s’. Words like children, sheep, women and men are examples of some plural words that do not end with an ‘s.’ These plural words are treated as if they were singular words when making the noun possessive.

Examples:

  • Singular nouns: kitten’s toy, Joe’s car, MLB’s ruling
  • Plurals not ending in s: women’s dresses, sheep’s pasture, children’s toys

Rule #2: Making plural nouns possessive

Add an apostrophe only to plural nouns that already end in the letter -s. You don’t need to add an extra ‘s’ to plural nouns that already end with the letter ‘s’. You only need to put the apostrophe onto the end of the word to indicate that the plural noun is now a plural possessive noun as well.

Examples:

  • Companies’ workers
  • Horses’ stalls
  • Countries’ armies

Rule #3: Making hyphenated nouns and compound nouns plural

Compound words can be tricky for the average grammar student. However, you’ll need to add the apostrophe (‘) + ‘s’ to the end of the compound word or the last word in a hyphenated noun.

Examples:

  • My father-in-law’s recipe for meatloaf is my husband’s favorite.
  • The United States Post Office’s stamps are available for purchase in rolls or packets.

Rule #4: Indicating possession when two nouns are joined together

You may be writing about two people or two places, or two things that share possession of an object. If two nouns share ownership of the object or the person in question, indicate the possession of that noun only once, and on the second noun itself. Add the apostrophe (‘) + ‘s’ to the second noun only.

Examples:

  • Jack and Jill’s pail of water is a common nursery rhyme.
  • Abbot and Costello’s comedy skit “Who’s On First” is a classic comedy sketch.

Rule #5: Indicating possession when the two nouns are joined, yet ownership remains separate

This is the trickiest rule of them all, but luckily you’ll only need to use this rule infrequently. When two nouns indicate ownership, but the ownership is separate, each noun gets the apostrophe (‘) + ‘s’. The written examples below may help you to understand exactly what this rule means.

Examples:

  • Lucy’s and Ricky’s dressing rooms were painted pink and blue.

Explanation – (Each person owns his or her own dressing room, and they are different rooms).

  • President Obama’s and Secretary Clinton’s educations are outstanding.

Explanation – (Each government official owns his or her education, but they attained separate educations).

Possessive nouns is a tricky grammar topic but by understanding the need to use the apostrophe in the correct place and studying the rules surrounding its’ usage, you’ll be going in the right direction. Nouns can be singular, plural, compound, hyphenated, etc. so that is why you must be aware that the formation of the possessive will change depending upon how the noun is formed.

These rules, examples, and explanations for possessive nouns will help you develop your English grammar proficiency especially for this particular topic. However, you as the student must take the time to create your own sentences, study these examples and review this blog post in order to master the subject of possessive nouns.

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English Corner – Singular and Plural Nouns

Nouns, as they are popular known in English, are a fundamental building block in English grammar. Nouns are a fundamental part of speech in English. They can be found in nearly every sentence, every phrase, and make a vast amount of words. If you’re familiar with basic English grammar, you’ll know that the basic definition of a noun is that it is a person, place, thing, or idea. When it comes to the topic of singular and plural nouns, we have two separate categories to break our nouns into. In order to understand nouns, we need to know about the difference between singular and plural nouns.

To make the distinction between singular and plural nouns, we must first understand the definition of both concepts. The singular noun describes only one person, place, thing, or idea. The plural noun, in contrast, names more than one person, place, thing, or idea. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference then to distinguish between singular and plural nouns. When you think of singular nouns, think of the word ‘single’, which is similar in both meaning and how the word is written. Let us take a look at some examples to better illustrate what singular and plural nouns are.

Singular: Cat, Dog, Whale, Donkey

Plural: Cats, Dogs, Whales, Donkeys

As you can see from the examples above, the way that we distinguish the singular noun words from the plural noun words is the addition of the ‘s.’ In order to make a noun plural, you’re most often going to add the letter ‘s’ to the end of the word.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are certain singular noun words that don’t become plural from adding ‘-s’ to the end of the word and are irregular in their change. Let’s look at some examples of the change made from singular nouns to irregular plural nouns below.

Singular: Bench, Ash, Bus

Plural: Benches, Ashes, Buses

From these examples, you can see that in order to make the singular nouns to become plural, you need to add ‘-es’ to the end of the word and not just ‘-s.’ Specifically, for those singular nouns that end in s, x, z, ch, sh, you’re always going to add ‘-es’ after those letters to make the singular noun plural.

For those singular nouns that end in the letter ‘-y’, in order to make that same noun plual, you need to drop the ‘-y’ and add ‘-ies’ to make the plural noun. Here are some examples.

Singular: Baby, Candy, Party

Plural: Babies, Candies, Parties

As you can see, the ‘y’ is dropped and the ‘ies’ is added to make these words plural.

It’s also important to be aware that there are a few cases where singular nouns can become plural without adding s, es, ies, etc. These are unique words but they become plural nouns through different changes. Here are some examples below:

Man –> Men

Woman –> Women

Mouse –> Mice

There are also some nouns that don’t make any changes to their structure at all and maintain the same form whether they are singular or are plural.

Here are some word examples where they stay the same: deer, sheep, fish.

Some nouns can also maintain a plural form with an ‘-s’ ending but never be able to have a singular noun form given their structural makeup.

These words include: news, sports, billiards.

Other nouns will only have a singular form without a ‘-s’ ending but won’t be able to become plural due to their structural makeup as well.

These words include: bowling, music, badminton.

Having an understanding of and being able to use singular and plural nouns proficiently in English is extremely important. Luckily, this topic is one of the most straightforward to follow and to memorize. There are variations to the rules that make a singular noun plural so it’s vital to study the possible changes that can be made. Whether it’s adding a simple ‘s’ to the end of the word or changing the whole structure of the word such as mouse à mice, studying this grammar topic will take time and effort. Do your best with singular and plural nouns because it is a fundamental part of English speech.

English Corner – The Oxford Comma

One of the key debates in English grammar is the role of the ‘serial’ comma or what’s otherwise popularly known as the ‘oxford’ comma. Depending on whom you might ask, there are constructive arguments to be made as to why the Oxford comma is useful or why it may not be necessary at all. It all depends upon your personal preference in using or not using this kind of comma but it is important to be aware of how it is used and why it is used. Having proper grammar is a key part into developing one’s fluency in English and the Oxford comma is often considered to be necessary to developing that skillset.

The Oxford or serial comma is the last comma for a list of things, people, or places. I’ve listed some examples as to make it clear what this kind of comma is. The Oxford comma is always the last comma and cannot be classified as a serial comma if there is only one comma in the sentence. There has to be at least two or more commas in the sentence to have an Oxford comma take its’ place as the serial comma.

Examples

  1. Please bring your books, pencils, and some paper to class tomorrow.
  2. Remind Jimmy, Patrick, and Tina that they have a Math test today.
  3. I had a salad, an appetizer, steak, and dessert at the restaurant tonight.

As you can see from the examples, the Oxford comma is highlighted and bolded as the last of the commas in the sentence whether the subject(s) are people, things, or places. The thing with the Oxford comma to understand is that it is not mandatory to use and that there is a lot of debate over whether it should be even used at all. The use of the Oxford comma is stylistic and different style guides differ in terms of their views on the serial comma.

For example, the AP style guide for English grammar does not mandate the use of the Oxford comma. However, this is in contrast to other style guides such as the Chicago Manual of Style or The Elements of Style, which mandate and support the use of the Oxford comma. Certain professional organizations and agencies such as the United States Government Printing Office and the American Medical Association are supportive of the Oxford comma and encourage its’ use in their employees. Depending upon whom you work for or what line of work you’re in, views on the Oxford comma are likely to differ.

The debate over the Oxford comma extends to across the pond in the United Kingdom where there is also a divide over if it should be used at all. The Oxford Style Manual and the MHRA Style guide support the use of the Oxford comma whereas well-known national publications such as The Times Style Manual and The Economist Style Guide oppose the use of the Oxford comma. When it comes to the serial (Oxford) comma, British and American style guides both fall on opposing sides of this debate.

The main argument in support of using the Oxford comma is based around how it can clear up any ambiguity that comes with using ‘and’ instead of another comma to finish up the sentence. Supporters of the Oxford comma generally wants to make them understood without confusing the audience regardless if they’re writing a newspaper article or a research paper. I’ll give you an example to see how a sentence’s meaning could be ambiguous without the Oxford comma being used.

Example

I love my siblings, George Clooney and Katy Perry.

Because there’s no Oxford comma here, it’s definitely strange if you read it out loud. Instead of the intended meaning being that you love your siblings separately and then you also love George Clooney and Katy Perry who are known celebrities, it comes off as being that your siblings are George Clooney (brother) and Katy Perry (sister) which is likely not true.

Let’s look at the same example with the Oxford comma implemented into the ending of the sentence.

Example

I love my siblings, George Clooney, and Katy Perry.

From this re-written example with the Oxford comma included, it becomes more clearly that the subject known, as ‘I’ loves his or her siblings, George Clooney, and Katy Perry. It’s clearly distinguished in this case that the siblings are not the famous celebrities and that they are separate people. However, if you are really opposed to the Oxford comma, you can re-structure the sentence so that it can make sense grammatically and you won’t have to insert the serial comma for it to work.

Example

I love George Clooney, Katy Perry and my siblings.

In this re-written example, you don’t need the Oxford comma to clear up the ambiguity.

Unlike other debates, this debate within English grammar about the Oxford comma will never end. There are always going to be supporters and opposition to its usage. However, it’s important that every English learner or teacher be adaptable to its usage or non-usage. If your student wants to use the Oxford comma, they should be able to because it’s apart of how they learned English grammar and they are technically allowed to do so. If the teacher doesn’t want to teach the Oxford comma to their English students, they also should not have to if they don’t believe in it. We can learn and teach English in a world where the Oxford comma can exist and not exist.