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Hi I am trying to understand the if it is ever possible to use Life's. I know technically the plural for the word life is Lives but I am still curious.

Sorry maybe I am not to clear on it. I would use the term Life's Boats not in the typical manner of a Life Boat. But in the descriptive manner for a boat that fits every aspect of life.

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  • A noun adjunct, or attributive noun (that is, a noun performing the role of an adjective to modify another noun), is never pluralized.
    – Hellion
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:18
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    "Life's" is the possessive form of "life", or a contraction for "life is".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:35
  • @Mike, Can you elaborate on what you mean by "a boat that fits every aspect of life"? What does that mean? What kind of boat is it? What are its attributes? Why do you want to pluralize "life" to achieve this effect?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:41
  • Dan I don't want to get to much into it. But here is another look at it. Is this sentence grammatically correct? Is the possessive form of the singular noun life, life's. example: These volumes represent his life's work.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:43
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    @Mike, you can say "His life's work", but there life isn't plural. It's singular, and it's attributing the possession of the work to his life. It is the work of his life. By contrast, you cannot ascribe the possession of the boat to his life; that doesn't make any sense.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 19:06

1 Answer 1

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In the phrase "life boat", life in a nominal adjective: a noun acting as a description of the type of boat. In that case, "life" will never be plural.

Two of the life boats sank.
Life alert systems are important in home health care.

The plural of life (lives) will certainly be used in many instances, but always as a noun and not an adjective.

Many lives were saved by other emergency boats.
Alert systems are important for the lives of elderly in home care.

If however you wish to use the possessive of life, something that belongs to life, then use the apostrophe and s as with most possessives. In this way, possessives do not change the structure of the noun involved.

It can be hard to keep up with life's chaotic changes.
All of life relies on each other as though we were the crew of a huge boat called Earth. Let's not capsize life's boat.

If you wish to check if something is a possessive, try to reword it with the word "of":

the chaotic changes of life
the boat of life

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  • Sorry maybe I am not to clear on it. I would use the term Life's Boats not in the typical manner of a Life Boat. But in the descriptive manner for a boat that fits every aspect of life.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 17:28
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    That is in fact not a plural, but rather a possessive. The boat which accompanies all life is "life's boat". I will add a section concerning that to my answer.
    – Cord
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 18:50
  • 'life [is] a nominal adjective: a noun acting as a description of the type of boat.' [True] ... 'In that case, "life" will never be plural.' Very probably true, but have you evidence to support this claim? Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 19:06
  • I can't present proof (frankly I have no idea if someone has chronicled this), but I can show constructions where the plural is expressly removed when something turns into a nominal adjective: i.e. a five day drive or a two-hour seminar.
    – Cord
    Commented Apr 8, 2015 at 19:25

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