Which one from following would be correct:

  • woman pilots.
  • women pilots.

And the usage of which one from following options would be correct:

  1. Women's jobs
  2. Women jobs
  3. Woman jobs
  4. Woman's jobs.

I cannot understand which option I should use.

  • 4
    Totally aside from which ones are correct grammatically, you should avoid using "woman" as an adjective; yes, some organizations still do it, but it's extremely old-fashioned now. More current style would be to say "female pilots".
    – stangdon
    Dec 30, 2015 at 15:42
  • You may find this question helpful. Dec 30, 2015 at 16:05
  • Women pilots/female pilots... either way, it's not possessive. Only the second grouping has anything to do with possession. And, yes, "female pilots" would be preferred. So, is the question really "When is it appropriate to use "women" vs "woman"?
    – Catija
    Dec 30, 2015 at 16:25

4 Answers 4


As noted in comments, it's generally (unofficially) discouraged to use "women" or "woman" as an adjective. It's preferred to use "female".

So, while these may be perfectly fine, they are not adjectival uses of "woman":

The woman pilots the plane.
At Airline X, women pilot all of the planes.
*Note that in these examples, "pilot" is a verb, not a noun.

The preferred use would be:

Female pilots were well known as early as the 1960s.

As a note, none of these uses are "possessives". There's no show of ownership at all. It's just describing the type of pilot you're talking about.

This section options 1 and 4 both use the possessive but 2 and 3 do not:

  1. Women's jobs
  2. Women jobs
  3. Woman jobs
  4. Woman's jobs.

So, if your goal is to understand the possessive use, I'll ignore 2 and 3, which I don't think should ever be used, regardless of possession.

Version 1 is plural possessive. If that's what you're looking for, this is your choice. "Women" is plural and the "apostrophe s" makes it possessive.

Version 4 is singular possessive. "Woman" is singular and the "apostrophe s" makes it possessive.


There are several points you should consider.

First, The pilots example is not a possessive form unlike the another one. You are using Woman/Women as an adjective.

Second, Choosing whether to use singular or plural depends on the context. If you are talking about a single woman use Woman. Otherwise it's Women for the plural form.

In case of possession like your second question, you use Women's/Woman's Jobs. For instance, you might've seen Men's/Women's Section in a clothing store.

  • But "woman" is singular... not plural. If the question is asking about plural nouns, clearly, "woman" is wrong.
    – Catija
    Dec 30, 2015 at 16:24
  • That is why I wrote the second paragraph. Is he asking which form is singular and which is plural? Dec 30, 2015 at 16:26
  • The question title specifically says "Plural possessives" But, as I've pointed out in a comment on the question, half of the question isn't about possessives at all, so it's very confusing.
    – Catija
    Dec 30, 2015 at 16:27

So coming at it as a native speaker, I'm not sure I can help you with "rules" as much as examples and if there are any skilled grammarians here feel free to chime in. But. For the first one, "Women pilots" would be correct. For example, a professional organization for women in engineering is the Society of Women Engineers.

For the second, it would be "Women's jobs" as in "Women's rights" or the "Philadelphia Women's Center".

  • Ooh, we just came down on opposite sides on that first question. Dec 30, 2015 at 15:40
  • Google ngrams, at least, seems to side with me: books.google.com/ngrams/… But neither sounds particularly natural
    – noah
    Dec 30, 2015 at 15:41
  • COCA does, too. corpus.byu.edu/coca Dec 30, 2015 at 15:52
  • search for [woman] pilots, that uses every form of the word woman next to pilots as a search term. You can then look at the context from there, too, to see that they often use "women" in this kind of case. I do seem to be wrong here. Dec 30, 2015 at 15:54
  • Schnazzy tool :)
    – noah
    Dec 30, 2015 at 16:05

The first, in both cases. For the first sentence, "woman" is being used as an adjective, and adjectives in English don't agree in number. See noah's post, I was incorrect here.

For the second, these are the jobs belonging to women, literally women's jobs. 2 and 3 sound like the jobs are women, and that doesn't make sense. 4 sounds like the jobs that a specific woman had, which doesn't seem to be what you mean.

  • I wonder if "women" here is just a special case? In general yeah adjectives don't agree in number, but it seems that for whatever reason "women <profession>s" is more common in use.
    – noah
    Dec 30, 2015 at 15:45
  • If I had to guess, it seems to me that the original form was "women, pilots" instead of "women pilots". That is, that the profession seems to be a descriptor instead of the other way around. Dec 30, 2015 at 15:54

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