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We were trying to understand the students' intention.

Is the word "intention" supposed to be plural, since the word "students' is plural possessive, or is it alright to use it in the singular form?

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  • Yes it's grammatically correct. However, either singular or plural intention/s is possible. If a group of students share the same intention, then use the singular, if they had different intentions, then you could use the plural. Where did you find this sentence, and what is the context? It's difficult to tell if there's a mistake here without knowing the situation.
    – Billy Kerr
    Commented Feb 20 at 11:44

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If each of the students has or could have a different intention, then it should be plural. If they all have the same intention, then it should be singular.

This may be easier to understand with a more concrete object.

Suppose I said, "My parents' house is blue." "Parents'" is plural: I have two parents. But they share the house. There is only one house under discussion. So house is properly singular.

On the other hand, if I said, "My parents' shirts are blue", again, "parents'" is plural, but they probably each have their own shirt. They're not sharing a shirt. So "shirts" is plural.

(If you want to nitpick my examples, yes my parents might be divorced and each have their own house, or I might be talking about one shirt that sometimes one wears and sometimes the other wears. In which case the pluralities would change.)

Back to your example: If, say, a group of students were doing something together -- they were all showing up for an exam or they were all rioting and burning down the administration building or whatever -- you might suppose that as a group they have one intention. On the other hand, if the students are not acting together, if we are talking about a group of individual students each doing their own thing, then they might have different intentions.

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