Plural versus possessive Writing & Grammar

Hello everyone:

One issue that my beloved students face, even at the graduate level, is whether something is plural or possessive. Hang on till the end of this blog posting and I’ll tell you a joke to reward your patience.

Do you have more than one? It is plural. Do you have something? It is possessive. Let me explain further.

There are fifteen girls standing on a boat. I haven’t said that they own the boat, just that they are standing there. Since they’re just hanging out, they don’t need a possessive apostrophe (but they do need an “s.”).

Now there are fifteen girls standing on a boat but one of them owns it. The sentence now becomes as follows:

Fourteen girls are standing on Sandy’s boat. Sandy owns the boat, but the other fourteen girls do not. The fourteen girls are plural but Sandy is the possessor of the boat.

Or you might write the following:

Fourteen girls are standing on one girl’s boat. Notice where the possessive apostrophe goes if only one girl is the owner. I hope it’s a big boat, with that many girls on it.

Now let’s say that they all won the lottery and all bought a boat together. The sentence might look like this:

The girls’ boat was a nice place for the girls to stand.

More than one girl owns the boat, hence the location of the possessive apostrophe. At the end of the sentence, we are merely talking about more than one girl, so no apostrophe is needed.

Got it? Okay, here’s the joke I promised:

A gal was telling her friends that she never wanted to have twins because she didn’t want to be pregnant for 18 months.

A pregnant pause ensues.


Dr. Sheri



Sheri Dean Parmelee has a Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. She writes books on practical tips for people who become unexpectedly unmarried and is working on her second novel in a series of contemporary romance/suspense novels. She teaches at three colleges, working with students from freshmen to graduate students. Her hobbies include running 8 miles a day and reading biographies and fiction.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *