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Learning Zone

Plural form, compound nouns & double genitive

Level: B2


Take a look at words below:

  • news
  • dominoes
  • politics
  • mumps

It seems like plural hypothetical nouns new, mump etc. These are singular nouns and it is worth remembering that a verb appearing after shall be in the singular as well:

Physics is my favourite subject.
Is mumps serious diseases.
The news I have is good.

Take a look at other nouns ending with -s:

  • scissors
  • clothes
  • jeans
  • stairs
  • glasses

These nouns have an only plural form and verb appearing after must be in the plural as well. This group includes nouns, which express something double or plural.

Where are the glasses?
There are my new jeans

Another category is collective nouns, which seem to be singular nouns but always need to use a plural verb:

  • the police
  • the youth
  • the cattle

The police have arrested another member of the gang.
The cattle were grazing in the meadow.

Some of the verbs have different meaning depending on use singular or plural:

singular plural


Compound nouns are written conjunctionally create plural by adding an ending -s :

farmhouse – farmhouses
offspring – offsprings
photocopy – photocopies

In case of compound nouns the following rules apply:

  • plurals are created from an expression’s keyword and usually, it is the only noun:

mother-in-law –  mothers-in-law
hand-me-down – hand-me-downs

  • if an expression does not include any noun or any word is not a key, then the last part of expression gets plural’s ending:

forget-me-not – forget-me-nots
hand-me-down – hand-me-downs


Genitive usually takes a form with ‘s or construction with of:

Tom’s neighbour
the bottom of the page

Sometimes sentences are containing these two forms. It is also known as double genitive. We use this construction when we talk about people (never objects and abstract terms). We also use this construction to intensify emphasis especially when we talk about a particular person for the first time. 

A friend of my brother’s and his girlfriend are visiting us this weekend. Instead of a noun with an ending ‘s  you can also use possessive adjectives:

a neighbour of mine
a relative of hers
a book of yours

Double genitive enables to avoid ambiguity:

a picture of Anna’s – a picture that belongs to Anna
a picture of Anna – a picture that shows Anna

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