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Plural Forms of Compound Words

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Hi everyone! :D

 

I published a new issue of Grammar Tips & Tidbits last week, so I thought I'd share it here in case you missed it.

 

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Time for a pop quiz! Which of the following is correct?

 

* Attorneys general

* Attorney generals

 

If you said "both," you answered correctly! (Note: According to the tenth edition of The Gregg Reference Manual, "attorneys general" is the preferred form, although both are recognized plural forms of "attorney general.")¹

 

Generally speaking, the plurals of hyphenated or spaced compounds are formed by pluralizing the main element of the compound. These are some examples provided by Gregg:

 

* fathers-in-law

* senators-elect

* lookers-on

* runners-up

* bills of lading

* letters of credit

* editors in chief

 

When a hyphenated compound does not contain a noun, the final element can be pluralized. Gregg provides the following examples (note that these words do not require apostrophes):

 

* go-betweens

* get-togethers

* hang-ups

* show-offs

* hand-me-downs

* know-it-alls

* so-and-sos

* has-beens

 

Like the compound "attorney general," some compounds have two plural forms. Here are two additional examples (the first form is preferred):

 

* courts-martial, court-martials

* notaries public, notary publics

 

Let's conclude this grammar tip the same way we started—with a quiz!

 

Here's a tricky question for you: What is the plural of "filet mignon"?

 

Scroll down for the answer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Answer: Believe it or not, the plural is "filets mignons"!

 

Go ahead—look it up!

 

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Source:

 

1. Sabin, William A. The Gregg Reference Manual. 10th ed.

(New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2005), p. 175-176.

 

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Guest AnnaLisa Michalski

My favorite weird-looking plural is "fathers-in-law" (and, of course, their equally strange relatives). :)

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Kathy: Thanks for your compliments! I'm thrilled that you've been enjoying my newsletter.

 

AnnaLisa: I agree—"fathers-in-law" is a funny-looking plural. I think "runners-up" sounds pretty weird too!

 

By the way, one of my readers contacted me after reading my newsletter. She asked me to settle an ongoing office dispute over the plural of "right-of-way."

 

According to Merriam-Webster OnLine, "right-of-way" has two plural forms: "rights-of-way" and "right-of-ways." Here’s the dictionary entry if you're interested.

 

Based on the guidelines provided in The Gregg Reference Manual, I suspect that "rights-of-way" would be considered the preferred form because it pluralizes the main component of the compound. Both forms are apparently acceptable, however.

 

In this case, everyone in her office was right. That's always a nice way to settle a dispute! :)

 

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Hi Angela:

 

I am a Newby to this site and as a Grammer Fanatic, I am interested in subscribing to your Newsletter. I would therefore appreciate some instructions on how to do so.

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Hi Angela:

 

I am a Newby to this site and as a Grammer Fanatic, I am interested in subscribing to your Newsletter. I would therefore appreciate some instructions on how to do so.

 

Thanks for your interest in my newsletter! :D

 

In the first post, you'll find a link to "Grammar Tips & Tidbits." After you click that link, it will take you to the article on my website. You can sign up at the side or bottom of the page. Enjoy!

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This is such a wonderful site. Thank you. Now I know who I can go to when I get stuck with something grammatical. When I look at what a lot of people are writing, I just cringe. Texting has not done a lot for spelling either. Look forward to hearing from you after I sign up for your newsletter.

 

Thanks so much.

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Perhaps the reason why the plural of father-in-law looks strange........... is because we usually only have one spouse and thus, one father-in-law. Sisters-in-law, of course, is another subject... :)

 

My favorite weird-looking plural is "fathers-in-law" (and, of course, their equally strange relatives). smile.gif

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