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In my sentence, I have a plural of devices. Each device has to select a version. So when I want to write about all the devices, is it:

The devices' selected version

OR

The devices' selected versions

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  • Has a single version been selected for all of the devices or has at least one had a different version selected? Nov 6, 2018 at 19:57
  • Each device select a version. They can be different from each other.
    – None
    Nov 7, 2018 at 9:08
  • But are they different? If they all have the same version, then it would be version (singular); if there are at least two versions in use, then it would be versions (plural). Nov 7, 2018 at 14:17
  • The versions are different. Device1 can select version1, device2 can select version2, and so on..
    – None
    Nov 7, 2018 at 14:18

1 Answer 1

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It would be:

The devices' selected versions

The key is what you said in the comment about the versions possibly being different between devices. If all of them had the same version, it would be singular.

However, this is a good example of an expression that would be better rephrased.

The versions selected by the devices
The version selected by the devices

A good rule (in English at least) is that if you have to think deeply about whether to add endings or not - as clearly we do here - and if you need to carefully parse the sentence to get its meaning, then it would be better to rephrase it periphrastically. It uses more words, but the meaning here is completely clear and you don't have to think about it. I think most native English speakers would make the shift to the periphrastic somewhere in the middle of thinking "now do I add the -s here or not?"

The periphrastic also avoids ambiguity about the number of devices. In practical terms, the two words:

devices'
device's

are pronounced exactly the same, so the hearer doesn't know whether you're talking about one device or several. Though it seems like the beginning and ending s's could run together in my alternative, English pronunciation normally makes the difference between the two clear, since "versions" is usually pronounced as "versionz". And in case there's confusion, it's a lot easier make clear - repeating with a tiny break between the two or a slight emphasis on the Z sound makes the meaning easily understood.

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