I work in Montreal, Canada with a great group of first-language French speakers, who are nevertheless very articulate in English. However what thing that comes up, again and again, is the pluralizing of nouns, confused by the fact that the noun is generic.

i.e., should be "The Component form's fields..." is always written "The Components' forms fields...". I correct this, and their valid comeback is: what, there's more than one component and more than one field!

I tried to explain the difference between generics and item-counting as follows: HR departments (generic) have tried to... Our HR department (item-counting) has tried to...

This kind of gets at it, but not quite: https://www.grammarly.com/blog/generic-nouns/

I have no adequate way to explain this and no rule for them to memorize, and I'm losing credibility. Does anyone have either a good rule or a good explanation? Thanks in advance!

  • Form field is singular compound noun. To make it plural, you add an s: form fields. Normally, singular compound nouns are turned into plural nouns by adding an s to the final word. There are some exceptions (attorneys general), but they are not the norm. This is a basic rule of English grammar. It's not clear why pointing them to English grammar books (or sites) would be insufficient. Feb 20, 2019 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


I shall try to answer this question, but it is so badly posed as to be nearly unintelligible.

What do you want to say? (Remember that "component") may be used as a noun or an adjective. So the short answer is

If "component" is being used as an adjective, adjectives have neither possessives nor plurals.

If "component" is being used as a noun, both possessives and plurals of all but a handful of nouns end in an s sound, but in writing we distinguish between regular plurals (no apostrophe), singular possessives (apostrophe before the s), and plural possessives (apostrophe after the s).

What the proper form is depends on the intended meaning. I have no idea which of the following you intend

the fields of the component form

the fields of the component forms

the fields of the form of the component

the fields of the form of the components

the fields of the forms of the component

the field of the forms of the components

None of those makes much sense without a context, which is completely absent. Assuming that each does make sense in some context, they are expressed using the possessive as

the component form's fields

the component forms' fields

the component's form's fields

the components' form's fields

the component's forms' fields

the components' forms' fields

As I say, none of those makes much sense without context, but the grammatically correct way to write it depends on what meaning is to be conveyed.

The discussion about "generic nouns" is obscure. Except for proper names, every noun is generic in that it describes a class of things or concepts. Perhaps you are thinking about the difference between count nouns and mass nouns. If so, that difference is not germane because "field," "form," and "component" (when used as a noun) are all count nouns.

Your example about "department" may indicate that you are thinking about collective nouns. But your example has nothing to do with possessives and simply reflects the difference between singular (one HR department) and plural (more than one HR department).

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