possessive FISH and BOSS


I have a terrible headache figuring how to create possessive forms for FISH and BOSS. Please correct me if I'm wrong:

singular fish's scales
plural fish's scales

singular boss's son
plural bosses' son

Is it ok??? Thanks in advance.
  • rhitagawr

    Senior Member
    British English
    The rule is that you complete the undeclined noun and then add the 's or '. Your first example is right. You second example is interesting. You've so obeyed the rule so you're technically correct even though your two sentences are the same. If you wish to avoid ambiguity, you could perhaps try "fishes' scales". "Fishes" is an old-fashioned plural of "fish". (In the Bible, Jesus fed the 5,000 with "five loaves and two small fishes".) But even then, "fish's" and "fishes'" would sound the same in speech.
    You third and four examples are both correct. Your fourth example implies that the son's father and mother are both bosses.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    British English
    You are correct - you follow the normal rules for forming possessives.

    You could start a separate thread if the plural forms of fish cause you difficulty.

    @Kryptonite. If the bosses were, for example, husband and wife, bosses' son could be correct.

    EDIT: PS I suppose I could say "great minds think alike"


    Senior Member
    I have a terrible headache figuring how to create possessive forms for FISH and BOSS. Please correct me if I'm wrong:


    singular boss's son
    That is how I and most people would write it. For the sake of completeness, however, I would like to note that some style manuals, including that of the US Government Printing Office, would make the possessive of boss by simply adding an apostrophe: boss' son.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    Strangely, whether to use " 's " or simply an apostrophe " ' " seems to depend on how you pronounce the resulting word. Since the possessive of boss (boss's) is pronounced "boss-ess" you use the " 's ". For the possessive of words where the proper pronunciation is just to slightly emphasize the final s (or 's' sound) ("for Jesus' sake; for conscience' sake") you use only the apostrophe. (Paraphrased from Strunk & White).

    If you were ever to need to describe the son of two bosses, this seems to mean that you would only use the lone apostrophe, since that word (bosses') is also pronounced "boss-ess". (This would be hard to detect in spoken English, so possibly some circumlocution would be advised.)

    (Substitute the schwa for the "e" in "ess" if you like.)


    Senior Member
    US, English
    You could avoid the fish problem by just saying "fish scales." I'm afraid this won't work for the son though.


    Actually, I wanted to say, that somehow people say "fish scales". Even when talking of a particular fish that is on the table.
    Unless it is THAT ONE FISH's scales.
    I guess people usually don't care what fish the scales came off.

    And, one could always avoid the "'s" by saying "these scales came off that fish".
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