Plural Linked-Words

Mark plurals of hyphenated words, letters and numbers

Drive-in movie
Passers-by
 

 

Plurals of open, closed and hyphenated compounds

PLURALIZE THE CHIEF ELEMENT

Normally, we pluralize the chief element of a compound word. (e.g., tooth [noun modifier] brushes [chief noun]; black [adjective] birds [chief noun]; copy [verb] cats [chief noun])

CLOSED (NO SPACE)

birthday  [n.– n.]

birthdays

blackbird [adj.– n.]

blackbirds

crybaby [v.– n.]

crybabies

handshake [n.– v./n.]

handshakes

gamekeeper [n.– -er]

gamekeepers

passerby

passersby²

OPEN (TWO WORDS)

couch potato

couch potatoes

lieutenant general

lieutenant generals

filet mignon

filet mignons

chaise longue

chaise longues

maitre d

maitre d's¹

HYPHENATED

mother-in-law

mothers-in-law

attorney-at-law

attorneys-at-law

mother-in-law

mothers-in-law

runner-up

runners-up²

grant-in-aid

grants-in-aid

POSESSIVES (OPEN)

traveler's check

traveler's checks

rabbit's foot

rabbit's feet

visitor's permit

visitor's permits

letter of credit

letters of credit

head of state

heads of state

PLURALIZE OTHER ELEMENT

Occasionally, we pluralize the final element, especially when the compound includes a preposition, a repeated word, linked words, or the suffix -ful. (An apostrophe is used to avoid a word that can be misread.)

PREPOSITIONS

drive-in

drive-ins

get-together

get-togethers

go-between

go-betweens

hand-me-down

hand-me-downs

show-off

show- offs

time-out

time-outs

REPEATED WORDS

no-no

no-nos / -no's ¹

so-and-so

so-and-sos / -so's

ding-dong

ding-dongs

ha-ha

ha-has / -ha's

 

 

LINKED WORDS

two-by-four

two-by-fours

do-it-yourself

do-it-yourselves

know-it-all

know-it-alls

wannabe

wannabes

have-not

have-nots

FUL

handful

handfuls

cupful

cupfuls

pocketful

pocketfuls

spoonful

spoonfuls

armful

armfuls

 

(Huddleston 19 §4.2) (Sabin 611-613)

¹ An apostrophe marks the boundary of the base word if the word is likely to be misread with the -s suffix.

² An exception, usually a prep. combination has a final plural (runners-up, passersby)

chaise longue — a reclining chair with a long seat that supports the outstretched legs.

Two recognized forms:  court-martials / courts-martial; notary publics / notaries public; attorney generals / attorney generals

Elements of compound already ending in -s:  huntsman/men, swordsman/men, clothespin/pins, bullseye/eyes

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plurals of Letters and Numbers

-S  / Apostrophe S

no dogs
No nos / No no's
 

 

Plurals of Letters (Words) and Numbers

PLURALS FORMED  WITH -S

Plurals formed from numbers and letters that can be easily understood from context are formed with a final s.  ("letters and numbers used as words")

ABBREVIATIONS WITHOUT PERIODS—MULTIPLE LETTERS

He sells TVs (LCDs, PCs, DVDs, MP3s, HDMIs, DPIs, USBs) technology terms

Please review your W-2s. (10-40s IRAs, 401ks)  tax term s

Show me the URLs. (SQLs, GUIs, OSs¹) 

The IQs of the scientists were high.

The three Rs(CMOS 7.65)

PhDs and MAs are required.  (Note the absence of "interior" periods.)   (MLA 3.2.7g.) (APA 4.29) (GREGG 622 a.)

All the IBMs in our office work well. (products from the company)

The ship sent out a number of SOSs. (emergency messages)

ABBREVIATIONS WITH FIGURES & EXPRESSIONS

The FAA approved the landing of 747s at that airport.

The store had no more size 7s.

The toddler was in his terrible twos (write out "2")

The temperature is in the 90s. (degrees)

He received two As and three Bs and two Cs. (CMOS 7.64)

BUT  In APA, place the letter in italics.  (APA 4.29)
The word accommodation has two cs and two ms.

WORD PAIRS

The dos and don'ts / pros and cons / why and wherefores / ups and downs /  the haves and the have-nots / yeas and nays / ins and outs / No ifs, ands, or buts

Add -s when the base word is easily understood by the reader. (GREGG 625)

A DECADE / CENTURY

Great musicians arose in the 1900s / 1960s. (CMOS 7.15, MLA 3.7.2 g.) (AP 188)

The '60s music.  The apostrophe marks the omission of part of the number. 

The Roaring 20s was a time when…

PLURALS FORMED WITH APOSTROPHE

Plurals formed from numbers and letters that cannot be easily understood are formed by an apostrophe + s. The apostrophe separates the plural suffix from the base.

ABBREVIATIONS WITH CAPITALS AND PERIODS / FINAL S

Ph.D.'s, M.D.’s and C.P.A.’s earn high salaries. (alternate MA's / PhD's– without internal periods) (CMOS 7.16)

A few style manuals require a period after each initial of a proper noun (J. F. K.) unless the initials form a word or company name, such as IBM. (CMOS 7.16)

The Yahoo!'s of the the business world are… (and similar Internet companies) 

BUT The new OS's are… [operating systems] 

 

SINGLE LETTERS

"Mind your p’s and q’s." or "Mind your Ps and Qs."

The word accommodation has two c's and two m's. 
Don't forget to dot your i's and cross your t's. (CMOS 7.16, 7.63)

Put on your pj's. Send me cc's or bcc's of your emails.
Add an apostrophe if the plural form is likely to be misread. (GREGG 623)

The x's and y's in a mathetmatical equation…

BUT: He received A’s, B's and C’s on his report card.  When the context is clear, use As, Bs and Cs(GREGG 622 b.)

WORD PAIRS

no-nos / no-no's  either form   (Merriam-Webster)

SPECIFIC YEAR

The 1960's were…    [possessive or plural noun modifier]
(Huddleston 1586, 1763)
 

The 1968's music was great. [occurs as a possessive only]  
(See Possessives.)

 

 (AP 325) (APA 4.29) (CMOS 7.15) (GREGG 622-4) (MLA 3.2.7g.)

¹ An apostrophe marks the boundary of the base word if the word is likely to be misread with the -s suffix.

Mind your p's and q's. (expression) – behave yourself; mind your manners

No if's and's or but's (expression) – no excuses

three Rs (expression) – reading, writing and arithmetic (reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic)

Also see Possessives and Plurals—Numbers and Letters. and Pop-Q Letter Plurals.

 

Style Manual Abbreviations: AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style),GREGG (Gregg Reference Manual), MLA (MLA Handbook)

 

Resources 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Miscellaneous nouns

 

 

 

Change to Plural Forms

The Consumer Electronics Show, a global consumer electronics and technology tradeshow, takes place every January in Las Vegas, Nevada, US. A number of activities and events take place. CEO will reveal new products and services for the coming year. New OS will be released for PC.

Inventors, with and without PhD or MA, will wow us with new and useful gadgets. The conference will offer a number of hands-on opportunities. Workshops will take place in the a.m. and discussions will take place in the p.m.

Afterwards, individuals will break out into groups of two or three and brainstorm ideas.

The following week the International Auto Exposition will take place. A number of new BMW will be on display. The company will quickly sell out of its new EV. Ford will show off its new light weight F-150 while Audi will show off its new S4. Auto executives will no doubt be giving each other high-five.

BMW (Bavarian Motor Works) — a popular automaker; or a reference to its products.

CEO (Chief Executive Officer) — the highest-ranking corporate officer or executive

EV (electronic vehicle) — a vehicle that runs on energy from a battery rather than fossil fuel (gasoline).

F-150 — a popular model of Ford's pickup trucks

gadget (N) — a useful device or tool

GPS (Global Positioning System) — a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information

hands-on (modifier) a physical learning experience

high-five — a celebratory hand gesture of slapping palms together in the air

S4— an Audi car model

sell out (V) — run out of items (cars) to sell; deplete its stock of car

tradeshow (N) — an exhibition organized so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products, services and activities

wow (V) (informal) — surprise; astonish

 

 

 

Use irregular plural forms.

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "Check 1-10" button at the bottom.

 

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Practice 2

Martha's Show

Drive-in movie
 

 

Read for Errors

Drive-ins, which were common in the 1950's and 1960's, were great ways to see full-length, feature movies in the comfort of family cars. For the price of admission, about a dollar per car, viewers received a pair of speakers and a parking spot. Carhops (waiters on roller-skates) came by selling candy-corn, ding-dong's, ho-ho's and soft drinks.

Some couples watched movies from the front seat while their small-fry's slept in their pjs in the back seat. Others watched in cars with convertible-top, which were opened up for better viewing.  Still others watched from the cargo-bed of pick-up truck, which were parked backwards. Whole families sat in the back with cushions, blankets and lawn chairs.

Unlike theaters where people had to mind their ps and qs, drive-ins were informal and relaxed environments. If you didn't like hearing someone talking during the movie, you rolled up your window.

Intermission breaks were equally amusing. People got out and stretched their legs and chatted with passer-bys. Guys checked out each other's "wheels", and girls admire each other's up-dos. Goes-between introduced guys to girls and vice versa. And some car windows steamed up. (A no-no!)

In the late 1950s, one-third of the theaters in the US were drive-ins; however, now only about 350 remain. Economics, new technology and urban-sprawl have squeezed out the once popular venues.

ding-dongs and ho-hos — old-fashion snack cakes (1950s–1970s)

go-between (expression) — a person who acts as an agent or intermediary between persons or groups; a match-maker

small-fry (slang) — young fish; young children

steam up (slang) – become opaque (not clear) with moisture due to heavy breathing (love-making)

stretch one's legs (V) – stand up, walk, move about

 

urban-sprawl (N) — expanding city limits and decreasing open spaces

up-do (N) — a hairstyle worn up

venue (N) — the place, scene or locale of any action or event

vice versa (Latin) — "and the other way around"

wannabe (expression) — fans; imitators desiring success

wheels (slang) — cars

 

 

  1. Select the option that best describes the sentence.
  2. Compare your responses to the feedback by clicking the "Check" or "Check 11-20" button.

 

11.
Drive-ins, which were common in the 1950's and 1960's, were great ways to see full-length, feature movies in the comfort of family cars.
   

12.
Carhops, waiters on roller-skates, came by selling, candy-corn, ding-dong's, ho-ho's and soft drinks.
   

13.
Some couples watched movies from the front seats while their small-fry's slept in their pjs in the back seats. 
   

14.
Others watched in cars with convertible-top, which were opened up for better viewing.
   

15.
Still others watched from the cargo-bed of pick-up truck, which were parked backwards.
   

16.
Unlike theaters where people had to mind their p's and q's, drive-ins were informal and relaxed environments.
   

17.
People got out and stretched their legs and chatted with passer-bys.
   

18.
Guys checked out each other's "wheels", and girls admire each other's up-dos.
   

19.
Goes-between introduced guys to girls and vice versa.
   

20.
In the late 1950s, one-third of theaters in the US were drive-ins; however, now only about 350 remain.