So my brother got the following ridiculous question as his English homework.

"There are mistakes in the following sentences. Apostrophes may be missing and they may be in the wrong place. The nouns may also be spelt incorrectly (e.g. childs instead of children)/
- Identify the error(s)
- Work out whether the noun needing an apostrophe is singular (e.g. boy or child) or plural (e.g. boys or children) Put an (S) or a (P) after the sentence.
- Re-write the sentences correctly.

The following we got stuck with:
2) All those little mouses' home are blocked up ( ) _____________________________
3) All three of the knifes blades are blunt ( ) _________________________________

Because it says "Apostrophes may be missing", then it says "Work out whether the noun needing an apostrophe" which confuses me. Can anyone offer any help on how this should be done? The brackets after the question is for the (S) or (P), the ____ is for the re-writing of the sentence.

closed as off-topic by Edwin Ashworth, Mari-Lou A, RaceYouAnytime, curiousdannii, NVZ Nov 20 '17 at 16:25

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    There will always be a noun needing an apostrophe, but the apostrophe may be missing in the question as set. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 17 '17 at 22:44
  • irregular nouns: mouses' should be mice'; knifes should be knives, plus a few other bits and pieces. – Mari-Lou A Nov 17 '17 at 22:59
  • Mari-Lou I understand that, which is what's making this homework so difficult. It says in the instructions "Work out whether the noun needing an apostrophe". So for 1) it's either the word "mouse" needing an apostrophe, or the second noun "house", ("home"). – Hugh Chalmers Nov 17 '17 at 23:01
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    @EdwinAshworth mouses' should be written mice's Yeah, the apostrophe, luckily it was only a comment. – Mari-Lou A Nov 17 '17 at 23:20
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    If I had another vote I would upvote again just for the word 'ridiculous' in front of homework. We've all been there. – Nigel J Nov 18 '17 at 0:47

Sentence 2) should have "mice's homes"; sentence 3) should probably have "knives' blades".


The instructions seem to indicate that the mistakes are in the use of apostrophes, and the spellings of the nouns. So you are presumably supposed to rely on the other words in the sentence, like verbs, adjectives and determiners, to tell you what the correct form of the sentence is supposed to look like.

2) All those little mouses' home mice's homes are blocked up.

The use of "those" and "are" tells us that the subject of this sentence is plural. So change "home" to "homes". There is no reason to put an apostrophe in this word. The word mouses' is incorrect: the plural of mouse is mice, and the possessive of that is mice's (per "How To Form Plural Possessives In English" by Geraldine Woods).

3) All three of the knifes knives' blades are blunt.

The use of "three" and "are" tells us that the subject of this sentence is also plural. "Blades" therefore doesn't have to be changed as it is already in the correct plural form. Knifes is incorrect: the plural of knife is knives, and the possessive form of that is spelled knives'.

Edwin Ashworth left a comment saying " 'All three of the knife's blades are blunt' is totally acceptable," and after thinking about it, it appears to me that this is also definitely possible: for example, if you are talking about a single knife that has three blades (e.g. "All three of [[the knife's] blades]] are blunt"). You will have to use your judgement about whether you think you are supposed to interpret the sentence this way.

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    'All three of the knife's blades are blunt' is totally acceptable. But answering this question on ELU isn't. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 17 '17 at 23:14
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    @EdwinAshworth: If you think "All three of the knife's blades" is acceptable, please write an answer explaining your reasoning. (Are you thinking of a situation where there is a knife with multiple blades?) The fact that this possibility wasn't obvious to me may indicate that the OP's question is not as simplistic as it might appear – sumelic Nov 17 '17 at 23:15
  • I'd rather strive to maintain some respectability on the site. I assume that the homework is about Year 9 level. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 17 '17 at 23:17
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    @sumelic As well as a knife with three blades, it could be a single mouse with three homes. In which case it would be "all those little mouse's homes..." – WS2 Nov 18 '17 at 1:04
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    @sumelic The thing that appears to me to render "all those little mouse's holes..." impossible is the word "those" which seems to qualify "mouse" rather than "holes" and suggests a plurality.To work as a singular it would have to be "all that little mouse's holes..." – WS2 Nov 18 '17 at 18:00

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