Here are two examples of mutated plurals: more than one goose= geese; more than one man= men

1)Say you had 2 or more groups of geese. I.e. group #1= African geese & group #2=buff geese. If you wanted to associate these groups together but still observe the fact that they are different types of geese, would you say geeses? (Buff geese + African geese = geeses) Taking this one step further, if these two distinct groups of geese share in the possession of something, would geeses' be correct? Say, one type of illness is common to two sorts of geese. [illness common to Buff geese(=Buff geese's illness) + the same illness is common to African geese(=African geese's illness) --> geeses' illness? ]

2)Say you had 2 or more groups of men: men from France(Frenchmen), men from England (Englishmen), and men from Ireland (Irishmen). Let's say you want to refer to the "European charm" that these groups of men have in common while still noting that there ARE different and distinct groups of men involved(i.e. different people groups--> peoples). Would you say the mens' charm?

I guess I'm just curious if you can make the sum of multiple groups possessive while keeping a distinction between these groups intact. (distinct GROUPS with similar possession)

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    Is mutated plural a thing? I'm not a linguist, but the term I've heard is irregular plural (similarly for verbs with irregular conjugations).
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:36
  • We already talk of the "fishes of the sea" or the "peoples of the earth", so the "geeses of the world" is not too far fetched,
    – Martin
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 20:41
  • @ Barmar "In linguistics, a change in a vowel sound caused by a sound in the following syllable." See grammar.about.com/od/mo/g/Mutation.htm
    – Christina
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 22:12
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    Why would the form of the plural make any difference here? If they were Buff dogs and African dogs, would you say dogses’ diseases? (Or if there are l different kinds of diseases associated with each group of dog, dogses’ diseaseses?!?) Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 0:54
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    @Christina Yes, because people is singular. One people, two peoples (in technical usages). But the genitive of people meaning ‘people in general’ is people’s and doesn't have a plural form at all. All the forms Martin listed above, as well as several others, are plural forms of singular nouns that just happen to be used collectively (often with notional agreement and a plural verb) in the singular. Notional agreement doesn't imply grammatical plurality. Fishes is just an alternative plural because the more common plural is identical to the singular, like sheeps. Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 1:54

3 Answers 3


In terms of 'correct' usage, it's wrong to do what the OP is suggesting. Neither written English nor its spoken form has an accepted mechanism for making "the sum of multiple groups possessive while keeping a distinction between these groups intact" by inflection. Joint possession by multiple groups of the same type can be expressed, of course - but it is done analytically rather than by inflection.

1) You can say, 'an illness of both buff and African geese', or, 'a buff and African geese's illness', or a couple of other similar phrasings. The best choice of phrasing will depends on context.

Writing "Geeses" or "geeses's" in ANY context would mark the author as either a learner, or hopelessly illiterate.

2) You'd have to say something like 'the charm of all these men', or 'those men's charm' ... while doing what you can to remove ambiguity.

However, in very informal and colloquial oral conversations only, some native speakers DO use these kinds of 'recursive' plurals and possessives, ... but always with the awareness that it's 'bad English'. For example, someone might say, "Chimps and humans are two different specieses.Both specieses's behaviours are complex." ... but only for humorous effect.


Yes, you can "make the sum of multiple groups possessive while keeping a distinction between these groups intact" - you just have to use a few more words to ensure the distinction. Your question already contains the answer: the "illness is common to two sorts of geese". If you're really keen to use the possessive, you could say "the Buff and African geese's illnesses" or "the Buff geese's and African geese's illnesses." Similarly, you could say "the French and English men's charm" or for greater clarity, "Frenchmen and Englishmen share a common European charm".

In all cases, the only time it would be grammatically correct to add an "s" to an already plural word would be if you're treating the word as a single item for counting purposes, e.g. "there are three geeses in that sentence." Even so, this would be an awkward usage and would be better rephrased to avoid the plural plural, viz. "the word 'geese' is used three times."


Since "geese" is plural, the possessive form would be "geese's." In the second part of your question, you used geese in an entirely different context that made the word singular instead of plural. In that context, the plural of geese is geeses. If you have a plural possessive of geese, you do indeed get geeses'.

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    No, it does not matter whether geese is singular or plural: its possessive still adds apostrophe-s. Compare geese’s with fleece’s, niece’s, and nieces’.
    – tchrist
    Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 0:42
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    “In the second part of your question, you used geese in an entirely different context that made the word singular instead of plural” — That was the intention, yes, but English doesn’t work like that. You simply cannot just take a plural form and decide it’s now going to work as a singular form. One houses, two houseses makes no sense, and nor does one geese, two geeses. Commented Dec 28, 2014 at 1:42

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