Look, I’ve got a lot of real life friends and Blogging Buddies who teach in public schools, and I want you all to know that I don’t hold any of you personally responsible, but I want to know this: how is it that a 20-year-old makes it to college without knowing how to make plural possessives?!
My plan for this term is to to give my Comp. students spot-checks once a week to see if I can get a baseline for where most of them are in terms of grammar. I want to offer up lessons on the stuff that the greater portion of the class bombs, rather than doing a blanket attack on stuff they may already have. I gave the class one of these little quizes on Monday to see how well they can form the possessive form of nouns.
Can you tell from my build-up that it did not go so well?
I had one student who scored a 5. Yes, that’s right – a 5. I also had a 15 and a couple of 30s, though I also had two perfect scores. Everyone else fell somewhere in the middle.
A singular noun is generally made possessive by adding an apostrophe – s:
my mother’s car
the government’s policies
All of these things belong to one person or entity – the car is only owned by my mother, we’re discussing the policies of a particular government, the artwork was created (or owned, it’s not quite clear) only by Alicia.
Conveying that something or somethings are owned jointly by more than one person or organization is a bit more work. First, one must make the noun plural in whatever way that happens – by adding s, es, or changing an irregular noun:
mothers children families friends houses
Then, depending on the ending of the noun, we add either an apostrophe OR an apostrophe-s:
the mothers’ group
six children’s coats
the families’ common yard
a dozen friends’ phone numbers
the neighborhood houses’ value
There will be a lesson – and another quiz – in my class on Monday. I’m sad for these kids that they made it all the way to me without understanding this…