How Do You Make Do And Don’t Plural?

do and don't plural

Making do and don’t plural is always a dilemma.

Many verbs can be used as nouns quite easily. But the verb do is a tough one. As a singular noun, it’s fine.

But you need to use apostrophes to form the plural.

Style guides and usage books don’t agree on the best way to overcome the problem.

Using an apostrophe for plural

Generally, adding an apostrophe to indicate a plural is a mistake or a typo. An apostrophe shows either a contraction or possession.

But because do has no natural plural form, it is common to add an apostrophe.

With do it works okay, but it becomes a problem with don’t because it needs a double apostrophe.

Here is my list of do’s and don’t’s.

There are some variations suggested by style guides.

The Chicago Manual of Style recommends:

Here is my list of dos and don’ts.

Associated Press recommends:

Here is my list of do’s and don’ts.

Another way around the problem is to use do and don’t as adjectives. Because adjectives are never plural, it solves the problem.

Here is my do and don’t list.

One thing is for sure. Writing can get complicated when you use apostrophes for plurals.

 

Do as a noun

We use do as a noun in some other contexts.

The company Christmas do was a great success.

I always get a hairdo for a wedding.

We have a long to-do list to get through.

In these situations, you can choose between dos and do’s to indicate plural nouns.

Company Christmas dos are always such boring affairs.

We have to book six hairdo’s for the wedding.

We have a long list of to-do’s to get through today.

 

Other irregular plurals

Plurals of certain acronyms and abbreviations sometimes use an apostrophe in informal writing, particularly when using capital letters or decades.

But you can also use a small s and no apostrophe.

I’ve got a huge collection of CD’s. (CDs)

There are ten NGO’s in our city. (NGOs)

I went to concerts every weekend in the 1970’s. (1970s)

With full words in lowercase letters, it’s straightforward using regular plural forms. It is more common in formal writing.

I rarely listen to my compact discs now because I prefer streaming music.

I could apply to all the non-governmental organizations for a job.

I went to concerts every weekend in the nineteen-seventies.

 

The double possessive apostrophe

apostrophe

We use an apostrophe when it forms a contraction or to show possession. But what do you do with existing possessive nouns?

It is a similar dilemma to do’s and don’ts, and has different interpretations about what is correct.

McDonald’s is a hamburger chain.

Wendy’s is famous for fast food.

How do you use these two examples with possession?

McDonald’s’s financial results pleased the market.

Wendy’s’s restaurants are located all around the US.

You could argue that because the nouns end with an s, they only need a trailing apostrophe.

McDonald’s’ financial results pleased the market.

Wendy’s’ restaurants are located all around the US.

Either way looks ugly. The best solution is to rewrite the sentence without using the possessive form.

McDonald’s released its financial results, which pleased the market.

Wendy’s has restaurants located all around the US.

 

Summary

English grammar often poses small issues for writers that need some extra thought.

In this case, with apostrophes for plurals and double possessives, there is no right or wrong answer.

There can be differences of opinion depending on whether you use British or US English too.

The best advice is to use the recommendations of a style guide or grammar reference book to help you.

Then you can apply those suggested rules consistently to your writing.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent teaching English and writing, as well as testing and taming new technology.

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