Posts Tagged ‘plural’

Updated post:

Compounds plural or compound plurals? That is the question …

We were already compiling a few notes about the “art of pluralizing” when we got a rash of input (from TV, Twitter, and email) about the plurals of compound nouns, specifically those compound nouns consisting of a noun plus a modifier.

We’re taking our best shots here, so please feel free to disagree or otherwise comment.

In question:

daddy longlegs – conventional wisdom would lead us to the plural form of: daddies longlegs, however, since that is cumbersome, we suggest: Harvestmen

Attorney General – no question about this one: Attorneys General

gin and tonic – conventional wisdom (gins and tonic) again loses out here (we defer to ironic1.com for this one ): gin and tonics

gin and tonics

notary public – not much question with this one: notaries public

brother-in-law – consistent formation found for this plural: brothers-in-law

maid of honor – 1) for more than one honor: maid of honors; 2) for more than one wedding attendant: maids of honor (please, only one MOH per wedding); for more than one copy of the movie Made of Honor: we suggest DVDs.

made of honor

man-of-war – encounter one and there are likely more on the beach or in the water: men-of-war

Bride of Chucky – ok, so are you talking about the plural of Chucky’s mates or the number of movies … or, even, the possessive? For our purposes here, today: Brides of Chucky

Good, now we’re getting more input. In a recent Twitter conversation:

@NeillShenton to @GrammarCops “ok, what about multiple spoons full of something? Plural* me that – i’d rather rephrase a sentence than type THAT ugly word.” 

* We’re now adding “plural” to our list of Nouns gone bad … Thanks!

@GrammarCops to @NeillShentonGood one … it’s actually one word ‘spoonfuls.'”


There are likely hundreds of such examples. Please contribute.

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We saw this post on the ONION, and it sparked a reaction, so here we go, blogging again …


(click here to see the post)

First, we would likely run off the road trying to read this entire sign … seems that might pose more danger than would the characteristics warned of in the sign.

Second, we see inconsistent and questionable grammar in a couple of places:

“… next 22 miles include a variety …”

At first glance, this may seem fine … miles can be counted, and they are talking about more than one mile, so it could be correct to use “22 miles” as plural. However, it could also be considered a “22-mile stretch of road coming up,” in which case, it would be treated as singular, and could read, “… the next 22 miles includes a variety …”

The main reason we even question this first point is because of this next point:

“… plus there’s a few blind corners …”

Now, the grammarian in us says that since corners is plural, the usage should be “there are,” or “there’re.” However, using the same type of reasoning we applied in the previous instance about the 22 miles, we could say that since “a few” is singular, the use of “there’s” (for there is) is acceptable.


It’s likely that the sign writer thought of neither of these issues, and, we’re just spending a Thursday evening picking at some rather obscure matters. But, isn’t that what this blogging business is all about? Plus, we’re having fun with our wonderfully-complex English language. Just be thankful that we’re not even going to mention the split infinitive, or the run-on nature of the entire sign (one sentence) because we love to use these types of items frequently …

How are you passing your time? Are you reading this and asking, “Who cares?”? At least you’re reading it! Thanks.

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By popular demand, we are resurrecting this post and adding commentary:

Our original post:

A reader writes questioning the loss of a singular noun with the word “none,” as it now seems to be considered normal usage.

Occasionally you may hear the refreshingly-correct: “None is …”

Motivated Grammar wrote:

Why is “none are” incorrect? I’ve marshalled a series of arguments for why it’s right, and would be interested in hearing why you disagree. In short, it’s been in use since [the year] 888 and “none” can behave as a semantic plural, so there doesn’t seem to be any reason to oppose it.

 And, our reply was:

Good question, thanks. The word “none” originated as a non-apostrophe contraction meaning “not one,” therefore, a singular pronoun. However, as you correctly point out, it has been used as a plural pronoun for ages. Most references now condone the commoner plural usage, so the only reason we have to oppose the plural is that we are, on most occasions, purists (or maybe just grammar snobs?)

For now, we’re sticking to our GrammarGuns … however, we will recommend leniency for anyone cited for using “none are.”

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Say what?

We did a little research on apostrophe use in Mother’s Day and Father’s Day messages floating around cyberspace and …

Mom’s win!

By far, there were more mistake’s for Mother’s than there were foul up’s for Father’s … (of course, our apostrophe abuse is intentional here).

We thought you might get a chuckle at some of our findings, so, here you go:

  • Happy Mother’s Day to all the lovely Mom’s!
  • … wishing all the Mommy’s I know a Happy Mothers Day!! (this one could have just moved the mark to Mothers)
  • We have to celebrate our mama’s by the way…
  • … can’t wait to have dinner at moms house. (now, this one needs an apostrophe)

Therefore, today’s punctuation concentration is on avoiding that embarassing apostrophe catastrophe 

To start, let’s define this little character:

apostrophe. noun. a mark of punctuation ( )used to indicate possessive case or omission of one or more letter(s) from a word.

You may see some sources state that the apostrophe is also used for indicating plurals of abbreviations, acronyms and symbols. We heartily disagree with this usage — we feel that this practice is outdated.

We do like Grammar Book’s baker’s dozen of Rules for Apostrophes, so we’ll refer you to their site for the full details and just give you a summary here, with one addition from us:

Our Apostrophe Rule:

0. Do not use an apostrophe to form a plural. This goes for words, symbols, abbreviations, and acronyms. * (This is related to Rules 5. – names, and 11. – CAPS & numbers used as nouns, below, but more encompassing.)

* Here are examples of misuse according to our rule:

CD-s and DVD-s



Grammar Book’s Apostrophe Rules:

  1. Use the apostrophe with contractions.
  2. Use the apostrophe to show possession.
  3. Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
  4. Use the apostrophe to show plural possession.
  5. Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name. * (We have some people in mind who need to learn this rule!)
  6. Use the apostrophe with a singular compound noun, to show possession.
  7. Use the apostrophe with a plural compound noun, to show possession.
  8. Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
  9. Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose.
  10. The only time an apostrophe is used for it’s is when it is a contraction for it is or it has. (Remember, “its” is a possessive pronoun – no apostrophe.) See photo below.
  11. The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes. *
  12. Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
  13. If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun. (Refer to Rule 9. re: pronouns.)

Speaking of rules … we like this … from Trevor Coultart:


Should be its.

 Sources: GrammarBook.com, Flickr

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It was appalling to hear the CEO of AT&T say, when he was referring to on-site products the company sells:

premise equipment.”

It was equally shocking to see a software company Web site list the following:

“Solutions are available both on-premise and OnDemand.”

Where are the Grammar Police in corporate communications? Yikes!

Here’s today’s lesson …

premise. n. a previous statement serving as a basis for an argument; a proposition helping to support a conclusion.

And, premise may also be used as a verb. However, we won’t get into that here.

Now, one could have more than one thought or premise. In this case, the plural would be regular … just add an “s” to get premises.

That leads us to a “totally different” word:

premises. n. a piece of real estate; a tract of land including its buildings; a building together with its grounds or other appurtenances.

We know it may seem illogical, using a seemingly plural word to speak about a location, BUT …

How many seemingly illogical rules are there in the English language?

The thing is … premises, when referring to location, is both singular and plural. This is an important rule to remember.

Therefore, the premise that this entry is incorrect, is incorrect:

premises is

Thanks to pomphorhynchus for this great example.

Never, never (at the risk of doing time in the GrammarGallows) drop the last “s” from premises when speaking of location!

Now you know. Take a look back at the dreadful offenses with which we started this post. Recognize the errors?

We presume you have read this entry. Based on that premise, we conclude that when you are at home today, you will know that you are on your premises!

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Did you know that “y’all” can be either singular or plural? Now y’all know!

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