Let’s Talk About Nouns- Part II

In our first post regarding nouns click here to read it we left off on proper nouns and surnames and how to make them plural.

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So let’s start this post with how to make a compound noun plural. Compound nouns may be written as solid words, they can also be hyphenated, or appear as separate words.

Solid words- when written as single or solid words, compound nouns for the plural by changing the final element. For example:

bookshelf becomes bookshelves, footnote becomes footnotes, stepchild becomes stepchildren, and photocopy becomes photocopies

**Exception- passerby becomes passersby**

Hyphenated words- when written as hyphenated words the compound nouns become plural by making appropriate changes to the principal or most important noun. For example:

editor-in-chief becomes editors-in-chief, mayor-elect becomes mayors-elect, and mother-in-law becomes mothers-in-law

**If a hyphenated compound noun does not have a principal noun, the final element is made the plural. For example:

cure-all become cure-alls, look-alike becomes look-alikes, trade-in becomes trade-ins, and know-it-all becomes know-it-alls**

Open form or separate words- when written in separate words the plural is added to the principal noun. For example:

bill of lading becomes bills of lading, a board of director becomes boards of directors, leave of absence becomes leaves of absence, and paper clip becomes paper clips

Foreign Nouns

Nouns that are borrowed from foreign languages may retain a foreign plural. These can be confusing, therefore if you have questions about their proper use make sure to double check with a dictionary.

Special Nouns- are those that may end in s and can be either singular or plural in meaning.

Examples of those that are usually singular: billiards, mathematics, news, genetics, or mumps. (usually, they refer to games, fields of study, or diseases.)

Examples of those that are usually plural: clothes, earnings, pants, pliers, and thanks. (usually, clothing or tools)

Examples of those that can be singular or plural: corps, deer, moose, headquarters, politics, sheep, and Vietnamese. (usually animals or nationalities.)

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In the next post about nouns, we will look at the possessive. Until that time, cheers.

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What Are Possessive Nouns?-We Can Answer That!

This is our third instalment regarding nouns. This post is about possessive nouns. As a lifelong learner who recently completed courses in business English, I can assure you that proper grammar can take you far in the business world. Communication is a daily necessity that is of incredible importance in business. So let us move onward and upward.

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Help!-What Are Possessive Nouns?

As per the article, Forming the Possessive, from ef.com “the possessive form is used with nouns referring to people, groups of people, countries, and animals. It shows a relationship of belonging, between one thing and another. To form the possessive, add apostrophe + s to the noun. If the noun is plural, or already ends in s, just add an apostrophe after the s.”

According to Canadian Business English (2017), there are five ways to use the apostrophe correctly when showing possession. They are:

  1. Possessive construction- two nouns are together and the first shows ownership of or a relationship to the second noun. For example; the man’s calculator, or both doctors’ bags.
  2. Reverse the nouns- take the second noun to start a prepositional phrase. Therefore the ownership word is the object of the preposition. For example; calculator of the man, or bags of both doctors.
  3. Examine the ownership word-as mentioned above, for the correct placement of the apostrophe you need to know if the ownership word is singular or plural.
  4. If the ownership word is singular you will add an apostrophe and s. For example; a witness’s testimony, or a month’s rent.
  5. If the ownership word is plural you will have two choices:
  • If the noun ends in s you will only add an apostrophe. For example; both doctors’ bags, or many investors’ portfolios.
  • If the ownership word is plural but doesn’t end with s, add an apostrophe and s. For example; the children’s rooms, or men’s magazines.

Did you think we were done with possessives? We are not. There is more to know.

Understanding the Possessive Constructions

  1. Descriptive versus possessive nouns- when nouns provide description only, the possessive is not used. For example; Claims Office, the electronics industry, or the Human Resources Department.
  2. Compound nouns- make the compound nouns possessive by adding an apostrophe or apostrophe s to the end of the compound word. For example; mother-in-law’s house, or notary public’s signature.
  3. Incomplete possessives- if the second noun in a possessive noun construction is not used, the first noun is nevertheless possessive. For example; We will meet at Stephen’s [home] after the movie. This year’s revenues are lower than last year’s [revenues].
  4. Separate or combined ownership- if two nouns express separate ownership, make both possessive. If two nouns express combined ownership, make only the second noun possessive. For example; the landlord’s and tenant’s rights, or the husband and wife’s business.
  5. Names of organizations- When the name of an organization or business includes an apostrophe or should include an apostrophe, you cannot change their name, even if the name creates what looks like a grammatical error. For example; Domino’s Pizza, or Tim Hortons. Always check their letterhead or website to make sure you have the spelling correct.
  6. Abbreviations-to make abbreviations possessive you need to follow the same guidelines as those used for nouns. For example; the CBC’s coverage, or the CMA’s new ruling.
  7. Awkward possessives- these occur when the addition of an apostrophe makes the possessive look awkward. When this occurs you should use a prepositional phrase instead. For example; “my brothers-in-law’s opinions” becomes “the opinions of my brothers-in-law.” OR “Do you have your neighbour’s doctor’s telephone number?” rather write it as ” Do you have the telephone number of your neighbour’s doctor?” See, they have a much clearer meaning.

Another way to look at the awkward possessives is to use an “of phrase” starting with the object owned. For example; You would say, “The advice of my sister’s lawyer.” not, ” My sister’s lawyer’s advice.”

We hope this post will help you to remember the rules when using possessive nouns. Let us know if it does, or if you have any further advice to share.

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What Are The Different Types of Nouns? We Can Answer That

Written communication in business is vital. With that in mind, we are going to review the eight parts of speech that need to be used properly to keep business English on a professional level.

It is logical to start with a review of the basics. Therefore, one of the eight parts of speech will be discussed in this post. Let’s talk about nouns.

What Are The Different Types of Nouns?

We were all taught at one time that nouns are the names of persons, places, or things. That is a great place to start but they are much than just that. Nouns also name qualities, concepts, and activities. That last one may cause confusion as we were also taught that verbs were action words. Sounds a lot like an activity to me. But do not fear, it will become clear. As stated in Canadian Business English, “Sentences revolve around nouns since these words function both as subjects and as objects of verbs.”

Persons: Mary, president, Mrs Smith, teacher

Places: Alberta, college, park, Toronto

Things: table, iPhone, car, book

Qualities: honesty, warmth, reliability

Concepts: knowledge, friendship, freedom, happiness

Activities: eating, reading, learning, management

Hint: if you are questioning whether a word is a noun or not, use it with the verb is or are. Toronto is in Canada, friendship is important, Mary’s greatest quality is her warmth.

Now let’s get a bit deeper into nouns now.

There are different kinds of nouns, concrete, abstract, common, and proper nouns.  Seriously? Yes, I have barely scratched the surface.

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Concrete nouns name specific objects that one can actually see, hear, taste, feel, or smell. Examples: Thesaurus, coffee, doctor, ruler, computer, and mountain.

Abstract nouns name qualities and concepts that are hard to visualize. Examples: freedom, success, ethics, happiness, personality, and value. I like to remember abstract nouns as qualities and concepts that mean different things to different people.

Common nouns name generalized persons, places, and things. They are not capitalized because they are common. Examples: town, student, cell phone, and magazine.

Proper nouns name specific persons, places, and things. They are always capitalized. Examples: United Nations, Smarties, Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Bill Smith.

Nouns can also be singular or plural. We understand the singular nouns and how to use them as they name one person, place, or thing. When it comes to using plural nouns there are more rules. The English language is full of rules.

The rules are as follows:

Regular nouns form the plural with the simple addition of s or es. Examples of add s: advantages, graphics, Toms, Smiths, houses, and pupils.

Nouns that require an es to become the plural end in s, x, z, ch, or sh. Examples are brushes, taxes, kisses, wrenches, and Lopezes.

Irregular nouns form the plural by changing the spelling of the word. For example, a child becomes children, goose becomes geese, man becomes men, and mouse becomes mice.

Hint: Apostrophes are not used to form plural nouns. The apostrophe is used to show possession.

What Are The Different Types of Nouns

This next section is aimed at helping you with the proper spelling of challenging noun plurals. Remember these rules and you will be a successful speller. Here is a great article on punctuation basics

Common nouns ending in y for the plural in two ways:

  1. When the letter y is preceded by a vowel (a, e, i, o, u) you will form the plural by adding s only. Examples: valley becomes valleys, journey becomes journeys, attorney becomes attorneys.
  2. When the letter before y is a consonant you will form the plural by changing the y to ies. Examples: country becomes countries, quality becomes qualities, a company becomes companies.

Hint: This rule does not apply to the plural forms of proper nouns such as Amy becomes Amys and Smithy become Smithys.

Common nouns that end in fe or f do not follow a standard rule in the making of plurals. You just need to remember how to spell them correctly. Most thankfully, are made the plural by adding s to the singular form. Unless you are using the following words:

half becomes halves, a knife becomes knives, leaf becomes leaves, shelf becomes shelves, wife become wives, and wolf becomes wolves.

There are a few words that can be turned plural by both ways and they are: dwarfs, dwarves

scarfs, scarves

wharfs, and wharves

Common nouns ending in o may be made a plural by adding s or es. Of course, there is more than one rule.

When the letter before o is a vowel you will form the plural by adding s only. For example, studio becomes studios, ratio becomes ratios, tattoo becomes tattoos, and duo becomes duos.

When the letter before the o is consonant you form the plural by adding s or es. Yes, there are words that you can use either option with.

Some examples of s are: auto becomes autos, a logo becomes logos, and typo becomes typos.

Some examples of es are: echo becomes echoes, hero becomes heroes, and potato becomes potatoes.

The words that become the plural by adding either an s or es are:

cargos, cargoes

ghettos, ghettoes

innuendos, innuendoes

mangos, mangoes

mosquitos, mosquitoes

mottos and mottoes

Musical terms that end in o form the plural by adding s only, such as alto, altos, cello, cellos, contralto, contraltos, piano, pianos, solo, solos, soprano, and sopranos.

Proper nouns and surnames are typically made a plural by adding s or es. The important rule to remember with proper nouns (such as business names) and surnames is that you cannot change the original spelling of the word. Some examples are:

Abrey becomes the Abreys, Germany becomes Germanys, January becomes Januarys, and Elizabeth becomes Elizabeths.

Proper nouns and surnames that end in s, x, z, ch, or sh are made plural by adding es. These would appear as: Rex becomes Rexes, March becomes Marches, Rodriguez becomes the Rodriguezes, and Paris becomes Parises.

This seems like a good spot to end for today. If this information is new to you I know, from experience, that you will need some time to digest it. The information above is not all there is to learn about nouns and I will return to this subject again soon.


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