The Editor's Manual
Grammar, usage, punctuation, and style resource for editors, writers, and learners of the English language.
Use there is or there’s when the noun that follows is singular (“There is a dog”) and there are when the noun is plural (“There are two dogs”). There’s is sometimes also used with a plural noun in speech and informal writing (“There’s a dog and a cat on the rug”).
Avoid using an apostrophe before the “s” in a plural, unless not using one would result in confusion (e.g., two “i’s” in “iridescent”).
Form the possessive of a name ending in “s” by adding an apostrophe and another “s” or by simply adding an apostrophe. The possessive of a plural name takes an apostrophe after the final “s” (“the Harrises’ home”).
Collective nouns like “team,” “government,” “family,” and “committee” are generally treated as singular in American English but plural in British English. It also depends on whether you want to refer to the group as a whole or to the individual members of the group.
Regular plurals are formed by adding “-s,” “-es,” or “-ies” to the singular (“girls,” “viruses,” “duties”). Irregular plurals also often follow a pattern, originating sometimes in the parent language or rules of older forms of English (e.g., “children,” “criteria,” “mice”).
A gerund is a verb form (“bake”) ending in “-ing” (“baking”) that functions as a noun. Just like a noun, a gerund can act as the subject or the object of a verb, or the object of a preposition.
Possessives are nouns and pronouns that indicate a relationship of ownership or possession (“the girl’s bicycle,” “the girls’ bicycles,” “the alumni’s families,” “the Joneses’ cats”). Some determiners (“my,” “your,” “her”) and pronouns (“mine,” “yours,” “hers”) are also possessives.
Count nouns have singular and plural forms (e.g., star/stars). Mass nouns are thought of in terms of quantity rather than number of units, and have no distinct singular and plural forms (e.g., milk, excitement, oxygen).
Nouns are words used to identify people, places, objects, and ideas. Nouns can be proper or common, count or mass (or both), and concrete or abstract. Gerunds are verb forms that function as nouns.
Some verbs can take gerunds and infinitives as the object interchangeably (e.g., “start,” “love,” “prefer”). But certain verbs can take only infinitives (e.g., “need,” “plan,” “agree”), while others can take only gerunds (e.g., “finish,” “consider,” “suggest”).