It could be oversight, under-learning or such but on and off I remember that I never learned what to call the game-changer "-s" that comes in to distinguish plurals from singulars. "Plural -s" is all that I learned and use.

Of as much significance is the "-s" that the apostrophe brings with it in the forms of words variously described as possessive, attributive, genitive or ownership. I've been referring to it as the respective "-s," i.e., "possessive -s," etc.

Would have saved a lot of breath if these two applications of the "s" had a name in grammar. Hopefully at least one of them does.

  • you mean a collective name? – user 66974 Jul 20 '18 at 6:58
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    Given their different applications and usages I doubt there is a single name to refer to the "s". But you never know. – user 66974 Jul 20 '18 at 7:04
  • Better still, individual names for each. Not the "descriptions" that I mentioned already. – Kris Jul 20 '18 at 7:05
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    well, what's wrong with the genitive s, plural s, possessive s etc? – user 66974 Jul 20 '18 at 7:05
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    This is the same as the -s singularizer for verbs. All three follow the same rules. – tchrist Aug 19 '18 at 14:27

The combined term would be enclitic, but that's hardly more helpful than calling it "the suffix s".

Since you need to specify what it's being used for, plural -s and possessive -'s¹ are the standard ways to talk about them.

¹...or some variant: there's no standardization for dealing with words as words across all English users

  • [ibid.] "An example of differing analyses by different linguists is the discussion of the possessive ('s) in English, some linguists treating it as an affix, while others treat it as a special clitic." – Kris Jul 20 '18 at 12:27
  • Btw, you don't need an apostrophe in possessive -s it goes with the apostrophe. – Kris Jul 20 '18 at 12:29
  • @Kris You're wrong but, in your opinion, sure. Like I said, there are many ways you could write that and, as long as your convention stays consistent within a document, it doesn't really matter. – lly Jul 20 '18 at 14:22
  • Similarly, as the source explains, moving it from one category to another is a side effect of some people trying to make their jargon definition of enclitic more restrictive than what it actually usually means. In any case, it's a suffix as well but I'd assume you already knew that and were asking about the other, more esoteric term for suffixed morphemes. – lly Jul 20 '18 at 14:27

I would call the possessive one the Saxon Genitive (this is what it is called in Italian) and this nicely covers both the cases, when it is 's and when it is just ':

Saxon Genitive - Possessive of Nouns

Possession is often indicated in English by adding 's or ' at the end of the noun indicating the possessor.

Or just "the possessive".

  • +1. I am aware of the term "Saxon Genitive." What troubles me though, is that (1) the above definition is the converse of what we are looking for; and worse, (2) the qualifier often, where we would like exclusively. – Kris Aug 20 '18 at 7:52

The game-changer s is a form of declension (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Declension)

You can think of it this way: verbs have conjugation, nouns have declension

But lly is right: you can simply refer to them as "plural s" and "possessive s". Perfectly acceptable.

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    Of course, it is a form of declension, that's not its distinctive name. – Kris Jul 20 '18 at 13:12

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