If the sentence in the singular is:

The butcher's and the hairdresser's are closed on Sunday.

What happens to the genitive if I want to make it plural?

  1. Butcher's and hairdresser's are closed on Sunday.

  2. Butchers' and hairdressers' are closed on Sunday.

  3. Butcher's shops and hairdresser's salons are closed on Sunday.

In British English they call it the butcher's, because "shop" can stay implicit. My question is: if I want to say all the butcher's shops are closed, can I still leave the word "shop" implicit and therefore say: Butcher's are closed on Sunday? Meaning "butcher's shops"? Why would I loose the genitive in the plural if I had it in the singular? If I drop the apostrophe and I say the butchers (plural) does it not mean the butchers = the people who work in those shops?

  • So... part of your problem is that your original sentence includes "the"... "The butcher's and the hairdresser's"... but your three options do not. Remember, you can use "the" with plural words if you're making them a group. "All of the butchers in this room"...
    – Catija
    Oct 15, 2015 at 17:42

5 Answers 5


Tbh, either butchers' or butchers would apply to multiple butcher's shops, in the same way that butcher's or butcher would apply to an individual butcher's shop.

"I'm off to the butcher's" and "I'm off to the butcher" are equivalent in use, and both are in common usage.

(The item possessed by the butcher - the shop - is implicit, but real. Which is why it is fine to say butcher's. You are essentially abbreviating butcher's shop down to butcher's.)

However, because butcher's - in the sense of an individual butcher's shop - is a homonym of both butchers and butchers' - in the sense of many shops each belonging to an individual - it is usually necessary to get rid of the ambiguity in conversation.

The usual use of butcher's is to refer to one individual shop. If you said "The butcher's are closed", it might easily be perceived by the listener that you mean your usual butcher's shop is closed.

You might want to say "All the butchers' are closed on Sunday" for clarity.

Because the butchers is a plural word ending in 's', the English possessive is butchers'.
For documentary support : q.v. Wikipedia - English Possessive (link) and Purdue University Online Writing Lab : The Apostrophe (link)

  • I am looking for the written plural of the butcher's with evidence. All other information is nice, but your answer must contain the requirement if you want a chance at the bounty.
    – user20792
    Nov 17, 2015 at 3:41
  • Any clue as to "Why would I loose the genitive in the plural if I had it in the singular?"
    – user20792
    Nov 17, 2015 at 3:44
  • Imo opionion there are two answers.
    – Euan M
    Nov 17, 2015 at 3:53
  • 1) Formally, you wouldn't. As I tried to make clear in my answer. 2) Commonly - especially conversationally, where the genitive is inaudible due to the homonym effect - observance is much looser. Keeping the genitive becomes much harder as it becomes less strictly-observed in general usage. The suffix apostrophe for plural genitives is much less prevalent than it was 40 years ago when it was de rigeur - If you were much bothered to follow minority interest grammar rules told to you by your teacher. Currently, we seem to be in transition to less rigorous use.
    – Euan M
    Nov 17, 2015 at 4:03

This type of errant apostrophe is not uncommon. Fowler's Modern English Usage notes many such usage. Though it rises some eyebrows but it still appears -

potato's 10p a lb.

video's for rent.

The use of these apostrophe is to make the noun plural, when the noun ends with a vowel. Example - grotto's, opera's, toga's etc.

This use is often called the greengrocers' (or grocers') apostrophe because of the frequency with which plural forms such as apple's, cauli's, orange's etc appear in their shops.

But your question is somewhat different to what I have written so far. I wrote it to introduce such use of apostrophe.

Now coming back to your question.

Butcher is actually a person who sells meat or cuts meat for that purpose.

A butcher's is generally used to mean a shop where meat is sold.

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A fishmonger is a person who sells fish. So the shop where he sells fish is called fishmonger's. But that is actually a old use. People now prefer to write a fish shop.

Bakery can only refer to a shop where bread is baked. But it's rarely used for shop. The baker's is the usual phrase.

Grocery doesn't refer to a shop in BrE, though it does in AmE. As for butchery, confectionery, jewellery, stationery, haberdashery, they can never refer to a shop in either language. A genitive has to be used to refer to a shop.

These genitives have two plurals when used with 'shop'.

Several butcher's shop or several butchers' shops. The second phrase is preferable. Some people consider it the only correct form.

But several butchers is used by far the most frequently.

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  1. The New Fowler's Modern English Usage

  2. Oxford's Advanced Learner's Dictionary

  3. Aspects of Modern English Usage: for advanced students By Paul Lambotte, Harry Campbell, J. Potter

  • In the necks of the British woods (principally London, Central Scotland, and the South-East) I've lived in, no-one has ever said "fish shop". "Fishmongers" has remained the usage on all occasions in my earshot.
    – Euan M
    Nov 20, 2015 at 2:45
  • 1
    +1 spot on! Good references and there are a few things I learned from this post. :)
    – Maulik V
    Nov 20, 2015 at 10:09

According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary the plural of butcher's is butchers.

In practice, they don't skip "shops" or "stores" while using plural.

  • Well that does answer the main question and gives a reference. Can you provide more information? Any clue as to "Why would I loose the genitive in the plural if I had it in the singular?"
    – user20792
    Nov 17, 2015 at 3:44

I am not sure the question is right. It may be a little flawed because I remember plural of butcher is butchers and the shop is called butcher's shop in UK English and butchers shop in US English (for reference, please check the butcher shop section:here).

I think you make words(more specifically Nouns) plural and not sentences.

A sentence is a mere combination of words to make sense.

That brings us to the point where I think the statement should have been

The butcher's shop and the hairdresser's shop are closed on Sunday.

for which the plural form would be

The butcher's shops and the hairdresser's shops are closed on Sunday.

Again, you need to be sure what version of English you would like to use.

cheers !

  • 2
    Most Americans would probably just call it the "Butcher shop"... no possessive at all. :)
    – Catija
    Oct 15, 2015 at 18:04
  • yes, exactly ! God knows why people seperated the grammar of the same language ! It becomes chaotic. Oct 15, 2015 at 18:06
  • 4
    But that's not a reason to make it "butchers shop"... if it was a shop with multiple butchers, it would be "butchers' shop".... I'll admit that Americans are generally confused about apostrophes but, officially, we wouldn't ever write "butchers shop".
    – Catija
    Oct 15, 2015 at 18:21
  • 1
    Probably as many variations as there are with "driver license[s]" (driver's license, drivers license, drivers' licenses...) Oct 16, 2015 at 13:12
  • 2
    This American would occasionally say butcher shop, but more frequently would just say butcher. (e.g. I bought some bread at the bakery, then went to the butcher for some sausages. ) To pluralize, I would write I went to three different butchers.
    – Adam
    Nov 16, 2015 at 22:51

If you use an apostrophe, you are indicating possession. "The butcher's shop" is referring to a shop owned/operated by the butcher. In the U.S. 'shop' is NOT implicit. I could say "the butcher" or "the butcher's shop" but it would make no sense to say "the butcher's" because with an apostrophe, it is a possessive without anything to possess.

The correct way to structure your sentence (here in the U.S.) would be:

Butcher shops and hair salons are closed on Sunday

In this sentence, the adjectives butcher and hair modify the nouns shops and salons.

  • 3
    There is enough crossover between British and U.S. English that the butcher's is widely understood in the U.S. as the butcher's shop.
    – wallyk
    Nov 17, 2015 at 3:24
  • But I would never write it with an apostrophe. I would say going to the butcher - anything else seems to be either incorrect or maybe slang...
    – dixonge
    Nov 17, 2015 at 15:56

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