3
  • Heron: Singular noun
  • Herons: Plural of heron
  • Herons': Possessive plural of heron

Do I pronounce it like "herons" or do I pronounce it like "heronses"?

There's only one 's', but there could be confusion between saying "This ball is the heron's." and "This ball is the herons'." if it were pronounced "herons" despite the difference in meaning.

  • 3
    Welcome to ELL, Rstevoa! I guess the listener(s) will have to guess from the context. "Heronses" would remind me personally of Gollum's "hobbitses". – CowperKettle Nov 28 '15 at 0:36
  • I pronounce it with a "z" - Hair-onz. – lurker Nov 28 '15 at 1:37
  • Pronounce it as you see it. There is no s's in any of your examples. – user3169 Nov 28 '15 at 2:06
2

Herons' is pronounced exactly the same as herons and heron's: in the International Phonetic alphabet, we can write it as /ˈhɛrənz/ (that's the "h" from hot, followed by the "err" from error, and the "ons" from onions).

For regular plural nouns, the rule for forming the possessive is as follows (quoted from the book Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages):

When the plural form of the noun ends in -s (or -es), an apostrophe is placed after the plural inflection to indicate the possessive in writing. Notice that with regular plural nouns, there is no phonetic difference between the singular possessive and the plural possessive modifier: the girl̲s̲' books (sounds like the girl̲'s̲ books), the neighbor̲s̲’ house (sounds like the neighbor̲’s̲ house).

As mentioned in this related question (Genitive Saxon: Do you append apostrophe s ('s) after plurals and words ending with s?) in general, the written sequence s's corresponds to /zəz/, and the sequence s' corresponds to /z/ with only a single /z/ sound.

Usually it is not important to distinguish plural and singular here. If you do need to, you can reword the sentence; in this case, you might say something like "This ball belongs to the [heron/herons]" or "This ball came from the [heron/herons]."

1

Corrected - thanks @Sumelic. Although names such as James may be pronounced with an extra "es" (to form "James-es", for example), the possessive forms of both heron and herons are pronounced the same way, "herons". Due to the ambiguity resulting from the pronunciation, it would be advisable to use an alternate form such as "... of the heron" or "... of the herons" when you need to distinguish the singular possessive from the plural possessive.

  • This is just wrong. See discussion here (Plural possessive - pronunciation), and the rule in the book here (Teaching Pronunciation: A Reference for Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) – sumelic Nov 28 '15 at 6:02
  • If by "wrong", you are referring to the hypothetical "classes-es" pronunciation, you might well be correct. However, that pronunciation is only used here as the basis for the objection. If you're objecting to my answer that herons' would classically be pronounced "herons-es", I can only say that usage is inconsistent. E.g. Cambridge dictionaries online considers James' to be pronounced "James-es", whereas other words aren't pronounced with the extra "es". Clarity and fluency of expression are more important (see: alternate form in my answer). – Lawrence Nov 28 '15 at 6:23
  • The pronunciation variant you are referring to is only ever an option for singular nouns ending in s, not for plural nouns. Herons-es is just as hypothetical and incorrect as classes-es. – sumelic Nov 28 '15 at 6:25
  • @sumelic Having considered other plurals such as girls' room / boys' room, I concede your point. When it is important to distinguish the singular possessive from the plural possessive, though, I still maintain that it is best to use an alternate form like of the class / classes. – Lawrence Nov 28 '15 at 6:31
  • Obviously, if it's important to distinguish them, it clearly follows that an alternate form must be used. – sumelic Nov 28 '15 at 6:33

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.