Blog/Grammar tips
25 January 2024
3 min read

Hyphenated Words: Plural Possessive Form

In the vast and ever-evolving world of the English language, one of the aspects that often confounds even proficient writers is the usage of hyphenated words. Hyphenation, that little dash between two words, can make a world of difference in conveying the right meaning. In this article, we will delve into the correct usage of hyphenated words, with a specific focus on the plural possessive form. We'll demystify when and where to use hyphens, back our explanations with examples, and provide valuable insights for clarity.

Understanding Hyphenated Words

Hyphenated words, as the name suggests, are words formed by joining two or more words with a hyphen (-) in between. These hyphens serve as connectors, helping to create compound words or clarify the relationship between words. Hyphenation plays a crucial role in ensuring that the meaning of a phrase or sentence is accurately conveyed.

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When to Use Hyphenated Words

Hyphenated words are commonly used in several scenarios:

1. Compound Nouns

When two or more words work together as a single noun, they are often hyphenated. For example:

  • Mother-in-law: She's visiting her mother-in-law.
  • Sister-in-law: My sister-in-law is a talented artist.

2. Adjective-Noun Combinations

Hyphens are used when an adjective and a noun are combined to create a single descriptor for a noun. For example:

  • Well-known author: The well-known author is signing books.
  • High-speed train: The high-speed train arrived on time.

3. Verb-Adverb Combinations

Sometimes, hyphens are used to connect a verb and an adverb to create a compound verb. For example:

  • Break up: They decided to break up.
  • Check in: You should check in before your flight.

4. Plural Possessive Form

This is where hyphens can get tricky. When you want to indicate possession by two or more people or things, and the possessors are in the plural form, hyphens come into play. For example:

  • Teachers' lounge: The teachers' lounge is a quiet place.
  • Parents' meeting: The parents' meeting is scheduled for tomorrow.

Why the Plural Possessive Form Needs Hyphens

The use of hyphens in the plural possessive form serves a critical purpose: it clarifies ownership. Let's break it down with a couple of examples:

  • Teachers' lounge: Here, the hyphen indicates that the lounge belongs to multiple teachers. Without the hyphen, it could be misunderstood as a lounge for a single teacher named "Teachers."
  • Parents' meeting: Similarly, the hyphen ensures that the meeting is for all the parents and not just a gathering hosted by someone named "Parents."

Examples in Context

To further illustrate the importance of hyphens in the plural possessive form, let's look at these examples:

  • Scientists' research: The scientists' research led to groundbreaking discoveries.
  • Students' projects: The students' projects showcased their creativity.
  • Authors' signatures: Collecting authors' signatures is her hobby.

Tips for Using Hyphens

  • Remember to use hyphens to clarify meaning, especially in compound nouns, adjective-noun combinations, verb-adverb combinations, and the plural possessive form.
  • Pay attention to style guides, as they may provide specific rules for hyphenation.
  • When in doubt, consult a dictionary or grammar resource for guidance.


In the intricate tapestry of the English language, hyphenated words play a vital role in conveying precise meaning. Mastering the correct usage of hyphens, especially in the plural possessive form, is essential for effective communication in writing. So, whether it's the teachers' lounge, parents' meeting, or any other scenario requiring hyphens, remember that clarity and correctness go hand in hand.

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