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Anthony Stewart

Hi, I am in education and was wondering if you are alright with student's using this service to improve their grammatical fluency? Would our school need a license agreement, or is the site just open for use by all?


Hi, Anthony--Feel free to let your school know about this blog. It is indeed open for use by all, at no cost.

Ben Pj Rogers

I'm fairly sure that some of these are incorrect.

For example the use of women's and womens' vs womens.

Consider the following example:

"Hi Jan! Would you like to come with me to Janice? It's a great womens clothing store!"


"Hi Jan! Would you like to come with me to Janice? It's a great women's clothing store!"

Correct me if I'm wrong, however the correct sentence is the first.

In this instance to substitute "women's" for "womens" would be incorrect. The second example implies that the clothing in fact belongs to women (either in part or in whole) which it does not. In this case "womens" takes the form of an adjective. "Womens" is describing what type of clothing the outlet sells, as opposed to a "mens" clothing store.

Again consider the following sentence:

"Those three womens' blouses came from Janice, a womens clothing store."

The blouses belong to the three women, and the clothing store Janice sells womens clothing (that is the type of clothing Janice sells is of the womens variety).


Well, Ben, in the seven years since I posted this item, the rules haven't changed. Possessives of very old plurals like men, women, children, and brethren take 's. They don't take just s, or 's, because they're already plurals. And I can't think of a single word where we show possession by adding s.

Ben Pj Rogers

You are actually correct here.

It was more of a brain teaser than anything; I regret being so bold as to naming it a fact.

I think this is an interesting one however. In the case of a number of these example sentences, it seems as though the word "women's" can be seen as both a possessive noun as well as an adjective.

Such as describing the type of clothing a store sells.

"Lucy sells clothing."
"What type of clothing?"
"Women's clothing."

In this case "women's" is both describing what type of clothing the store is selling as well as who it belongs to (or rather who it is for).

"Who is that clothing for?"
"It's women's clothing."

However, "womens" is still not an actual word.

There are however certain words which use just "s" to show possession.

For example if we were to talk about a particular company for instance, we would not refer to it as a "they" but as "it".

"Microsoft has developed many products which are intellectual property. The rights to those products are its."

Or a more poignant example would be hers (or his) which both use just an "s" without an apostrophe to denote possession.

"Lucy bought a copy of Lord of the Rings; she has enjoyed reading it. That book is hers."

I think the example of "women's" is however curious, because it seems as though it is both an adjective and a possessive noun.


Thanks for the useful information. :)

Anne Victory

The question isn't about how to make men's or women's plural, nor was Ben Pj Rogers's comment. The question is whether or not mens / men's and women's / womens is functioning as a possessive noun, in which case, yes, it would take the apostrophe s, or is functioning as an attributive noun (an adjective) and thus would NOT take the apostrophe s.

Chicago Manual of Style recommends using the possessive form (with the exception of proper nouns such as Diners Club, etc.), by the way (7.25), so women's clothing / men's clothing.

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