Plural and Possessive Nouns: What's the Difference?

Contributor: Allison Crews. Lesson ID: 13731

It can be confusing knowing when to add -s and when to use apostrophes when dealing with plural and possessive nouns. Learn more in this lesson!


English / Language Arts

English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Lion, Otter
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Your family's last name is Zwynacsupal.

(Sorry, by the way. That last name would have been hard to spell in elementary school!)

holiday card

Your family is sending out holiday cards, and you want to sign them with the plural of your last name.

  • How would you pluralize your family's last name?


the Zwynacsupals

the Zwynacsupal's

the Zwynacspales

Read on to find out!

Plurals and possessives can get tricky.

  • When to add -s?
  • When to use an apostrophe?
  • When to use both?!

This lesson will explain some simple tricks and tips to know exactly how to handle these situations.

In the example above, the first answer is correct: Zwynacsupals.

  • If you were asked to pluralize your real last name for a holiday card, how would you do it?

The answer might surprise you: You never use an apostrophe to pluralize. Never!

  • Easy, huh?

So, if your last name does not end in s or a similar sound (z, ch), you simply add s. Here are some examples:





If your name does end in s or a similar sound (z, ch), add -es to the end. Take a look:





In the case of last names that end in x, you add -s if the x is not pronounced:


If the x is pronounced, add -es:


So that's how you would handle pluralizing names.

  • What about everything else?

Pluralizing Other Nouns

The good news is, pluralizing other nouns follows the same rules as the last-name situation above!

Generally, if a word ends in f or fe, the f will change to a v when pluralized:

wife ⇒ wives

wolf ⇒ wolves

However, there are exceptions to this rule such as roofs, chefs, clefs, and beliefs.

If a word ends in y, the ending depends on what precedes the y. If it is a consonant, the ending becomes -ies. If it is a vowel, the ending is simply -s:

kitty ⇒ kitties

tray ⇒ trays

And, in most cases, when a word ends in o, the appropriate ending is -es:

tomato ⇒ tomatoes

potato ⇒ potatoes


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Sheep was a trick question! It remains unchanged, whether singular or plural.

  • Now, what about possessives?

Click through to the Got It? section to learn how to form possessives and combine both to make plural possessives!

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