Use singular or plural for the noun after 's.

Hi guys, I have a grammar question which has been bothering me for a long time, please let me know if this is inappropriate in this forum.

I cannot distinguish whether I should use a singular noun after 's, or a plural noun. For example:

The countries' ambassadors - I know it means 'the ambassadors of more than one country', but can it tell that one country has many ambassadors, or it means one country has one ambassador so many countries in total have many ambassadors?

2nd example:
James and Julie are a couple.
Their bank account - does it mean they share the same account, or it means each of them has only one bank account?
Their bank accounts - does it mean each of them has more than one bank account, or it means one member has one account, so a total of two members has two accounts?

3rd example:

James has James Pension 1 account and James Pension 2 account
Julie has Julie Pension 1 and Julie Pension 2.
If I want to refer to James Pension 1 and Julie Pension 1, should I use their respective pension 1 account/accounts?

Thank you very much.

Answers

  • DavidCrosbieDavidCrosbie ✭✭✭

    @hfhua1949
    The countries' ambassadors
    This can only refer to a group of more than one people, each of whom is an ambassador of a country. Since countries is plural, we know that at least two of those people are ambassadors of different countries. The smallest possible size for this group is two ambassadors of two countries — but it could be much, much larger.

    Their bank account
    This will normally refer to a single joint account.
    However, in a particular style in a particular context it may have a different reference.
    This is because of the use of they as an INDEFINITE PRONOUN.

    In formal old-fashioned written English, you could write
    Now James and Julie can each put £100 into his bank account.
    This is, of course, a ridiculous way of referring to Julie. Many would now write
    Now James and Julie can each put £100 into his or her bank account.
    But in speech and in informal writing many could express the same idea as
    Now James and Julie can each put £100 into their bank account.

    Their bank accounts
    This is the more natural way of referring to two individual accounts.
    Now James and Julie can put £100 into their bank accounts. (without the word each)

    Their Pension One account(s)
    This is no different in principle.
    It's perfectly normal to say or write
    Every three months, James and Julie transfer £100 into their Pension One accounts.
    But in speech or informal writing, some could express the same idea as
    Every three months, James and Julie each transfer £100 into their Pension One account.

    Note that while their account/their Pension One account can refer to two accounts in these examples it doesn't communicate whether the reference is to one account or two.
    Now James and Julie can each put £100 into their bank account
    may equally refer to a joint account.
    Every three months, James and Julie each transfer £100 into their Pension One account
    is less likely to refer to a joint account, but this is nothing to do with grammar — simply the way that pension providers operate.

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