Apostrophes in Plurals (the Grocers' Apostrophe)
The Quick AnswerDo not be tempted to use an apostrophe just because a word ends in s. For example:
- One cat
- Two cats
- Two cat's
- Time flies
- Time fly's
Don't Add Your Own Apostrophe to a Plural WordIn English, the plural form of a word is most commonly shown by adding an s to the end (e.g., cats, pictures). You must not add your own apostrophe!
In other words, do not add 's to the end. Just add s.
The plural forms of words ending in vowels (e.g., video, patio) are extremely prone to this error. Forming a plural by adding 's is a common mistake, and it is considered a grammatical howler.
- Dog's look up to us, and cat's look down on us. I prefer pig's — they treat us as equal's. (badly transcribed version of a Sir Winston Churchill quote)
- Anteater's prefer termite's to ant's.
- Pearl's melt in vinegar.
- Rent two video's for the price of one.
- Three large male lion's approached the 4x4. (lions )
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarf's. (Dwarfs )
(Actually, you could write "Dwarves" too — both are correct plurals of dwarf.)
(camera's cameras )
(Minister's are very... Ministers are very... )
(Letter from a former British Minister for Education)
- Their board genuinely stated: "Open seven day's a week and weekend's". (days / weekends )
- She fly's to New York regularly. (flies )
When to Use ApostrophesThe rules on using apostrophes can be summarized:
Read more about using apostrophes replacing letters.
The dog's toy
The dogs' kennel
Read more about using apostrophes for possession.
A day's leave
2 days' notice
Read more about using apostrophes in time expressions.
Mind your p's and q's.
Your 5's look like 6's.
Read more about using apostrophes for awkward plurals.
The Grocers' ApostropheIn English, the overwhelming majority of words show their plurals by adding s. Do not add your own apostrophe.
As fruit and vegetable stalls often display this error, it has come to be known as the grocers' apostrophe.
- 2 melon's for a pound
- 1 kg of apple's for a dollar