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Friends or Friend’s: Differentiating Plural and Possessive

English grammar is a potentially confusing subject to learn. From nouns and adjectives to verbs and adverbs, there are numerous components to consider. So let’s talk about what a simple apostrophe can do to a single word — for example, the word “friends.”

“Friends” is the plural word for “friend,” which means more than one friend or companion. Adding an apostrophe creates “friend’s” making it possessive, meaning something is associated with that friend, such as “my friend’s hat,” which belongs to them. 

There are multiple ways to make a word plural or possessive and, sometimes, both plural and possessive. Read on to explore plurals and possessives and learn the basic rules around creating and spelling them.

Friend’s or Friends’: Plural and Plural Possessive

Plural, by definition, means that a word demonstrates more than one of something. Rules for making words plural depend on spelling and pronunciation, but we form most by adding an “s” (source).

Possessives are nouns that show ownership. A noun can only be possessive when a sentence or phrase can indicate that an idea or commodity belongs to someone or something. 

Friend’s or Friends’: Placing the Apostrophe

What is the difference between “friends” and “friend’s”? The difference between “friends” and “friend’s” is just one simple apostrophe. What exactly is an apostrophe? Well, an apostrophe is a punctuation mark that functions to show either possession or the omission of letters. 

In contractions, we place the apostrophe where a letter is missing. For example: 

Isn’t → is not. 
Wasn’t → was not
Can’t → cannot

We also use the apostrophe for possessive noun forms. However, there are certain words where you wouldn’t use an apostrophe because they have their own specific forms to indicate possession.

For instance, never use an apostrophe for personal pronouns. You would instead use possessive adjectives, such as “my,” “your,” “his,” “her,” “its,” “our,” or “their.”

Similarly, you wouldn’t say “you’s car”; you would instead say “your car.” You also wouldn’t say “them’s friends”; you would say “their friends.”

Remember that personal pronouns and possessive adjectives are different. The possessive adjective “its” often gives people trouble. Many say “it’s” when, in fact, “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has.” For example:

  • My dog scratched its nose. (possessive adjective)
  • It’s the busiest time of the year at the ice cream shop. (contraction)

In the first sentence, “its” is a possessive adjective — the dog owns the nose. The second sentence shows the same word, but this time functioning as a contraction formed from two different words — one simple apostrophe matters. 

Friend Possessive   

The singular possessive is when a singular noun or pronoun indicates something belongs to that one person or thing. In most cases, adding -‘s to the end of a noun makes it possessive.

For example, to make the word “friend” possessive, just add -‘s at the end. “Friend’s” is now the possessive form of “friend,” as in “That is my friend’s new car,” meaning the car belongs to my friend. 

More examples of singular possessives include: 

  • That stranger’s bike looks brand new → the bike belongs to that stranger.
  • My mother’s gift has finally arrived → the gift belongs to my mother. 
  • My brother’s fiancé just graduated from college → the fiancé belongs to my brother.  

A possessive noun always comes before the item the person or thing owns or has. Still, what happens when the noun is plural? How does that now become possessive? 

Friends Plural Possessive

Plural possessives show ownership when there is more than one noun — a person, place, thing, or idea. The general rule for forming a plural possessive noun is by only adding an apostrophe when the noun ends with “s“ (source). 

When you’re about to write something using the plural form and the possessive, you might be wondering, “Do I write friend’s or friends’?”

When talking about a group of friends, add an apostrophe at the end to change “friends” to the plural possessive “friends’.” 

For example, in the following sentence, “Her friends’ bicycles took up the entire bicycle rack,” the word “friends” is the plural form of “friend.” Adding the apostrophe means her group of friends have ownership of the bicycles.

Defining “Friend”

A friend is a person you know well and like a lot but is not a family member. A friend is someone you can trust who is not an enemy (source). We can also use the word “friend” to describe someone who gives money to a charity or organization to show support.

The word “friend” is most often a noun, and it denotes attachment to another person. A friend could be a companion or someone affiliated with the same group as you. A friend is often someone who has similar interests to you.

As a noun, a friend can be someone who provides assistance or even someone who is vaguely acquainted, such as a “friend of a friend.” Figuratively speaking, we can even refer to an object or idea as a friend. For example, “Google has been my best friend while writing this paper.”

How Do You Use “Friend” in a Sentence

Sentences tend to operate using a specific pattern. For example, a basic sentence will have the subject and a predicate, which says something about the subject. Proper sentence structure should enable the reader to easily distinguish who is doing the action and what the outcome of that action is.

As a noun, the subject of a sentence is a person, place, thing, animal, or concept that performs the action in an active voice sentence. The verb is usually the action the subject performs.

  • My friend drives.

Some verbs do not require an object, but transitive verbs do. In active voice sentences, the object is the person, place, thing, animal, or concept that receives the verb’s action (source).

Consider the following basic sentence: 

  • My friend drove to the airport

It features a subject, verb, and a prepositional phrase. The prepositional phrase helps complete the meaning of the sentence, in this case, describing where the friend drove. The airport is the object of the preposition.

Can “Friend” Be a Verb?

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Although it’s most often a noun, there are occasions where “friend” can serve as a verb. For example, when you “friend” someone on social media, the word “friend” is a verb. If you said, “I’m going to friend her on Facebook,” you are using “friend” as an action word instead of a noun that indicates a person.

Can Friends Be Verbs? 

“Friends” can function as a verb, but friends cannot be verbs. As a noun, “friends” is the plural form of “friend,” while the verb “friends” is the third person singular present tense. So you would use it with third-person pronouns like “he,” “she,” or “it.”

For example:  

  • She often friends people on social media.

“Friends Discount Code” or “Friend’s Discount Code”

Sometimes, it may not be so clear, and we may wonder whether to use “friends” or “friend’s.” For example, do we refer to a “friends discount code” or “friend’s discount code”? 

In this case, the discount code applies to all friends (plural), and we can use “friends” as a descriptor rather than a possessive — it is a plural attributive noun (source). Thus, in most cases, we would say, “The store has a generous friends discount code,” meaning that the store offers a discount code to all friends.

However, style guides like the Chicago Manual would prefer using an apostrophe after the “s” — “friends’ discount code.” Of course, you might also say, “My friend’s discount code” with ‘friend’s” as a possessive adjective modifying “discount code” if your friend has a particular discount code, but this is unlikely.

Forming Plural Nouns

Let’s look a little further into the details of what makes a word plural. As we mentioned when discussing plural possessives, not all plurals end with an “s.” Some nouns are regular, and some are irregular, following a different set of rules.

When turning a noun plural, the general rule is that we add “s” to the end of the word. However, some words are exceptions to this rule.

We add “es” to make plurals of words that end with “s,” “sh,” “ch,” “x,” and “z,” as we’ve illustrated below. 

Witch → witches
Kiss → kisses
Box → boxes 
Buzz → buzzes

Note that sometimes when a word ends with a single “z,” we add another “z” before the “es.” So, for example, the word “quiz” becomes “quizzes.”

Words that end in a vowel and a “y” add an “s” to the end of the word. 

Boy → boys
Day → days

If the noun ends in a consonant and then “y,” we remove the “y” and add an “ies” to the end of the word. 

Party → parties
Baby → babies
Bunny → bunnies
Berry → berries

For nouns that end with an “f” or an “fe,” we replace the “f” and “fe” with “ves.” Thus, for example, the word “leaf” transforms into “leaves” in its plural form, and “wife” becomes “wives.” However, there are multiple exceptions to this particular rule, where we just add an “s.” These include the following.

Roof → roofs
Cliff → cliffs
Belief → beliefs

Words ending with a consonant and an “o” will add “es” in plural form, but exceptions to this rule include the following.

Volcano → volcanos/volcanoes
Pianos → pianos
Photo → photos

Irregular Plurals

There are some words that don’t follow any of the rules to become plural. You’ll have to learn these irregular plurals individually, and they don’t end with an “s.” Here are some examples of irregular plurals:

Woman → women
Goose → geese
Foot → feet 
Child → children

Some irregular nouns are the same in singular and plural form. These include words such as “moose,” “fish,” and “deer.” 

The word “friend” is a regular noun, so we add “s” to the end to make its plural form “friends.”

For further discussion on forming the plural and possessive forms, read “Todays or Today’s: Which Is Correct?” or “What Is the Difference Between Years and Year’s?

Further Examples Using the Plural Possessive

Image by Brett Jordan via Unsplash

The Plural possessive form can be challenging, and there are several exceptions, so let’s review a few other examples.

  • The girl scouts’ mothers all came to their special ceremony. 
  • Three dogs’ paws were covered in mud.
  • They shut down many Dunkin’ Donuts stores.

In example one, “girl scouts” is the plural form of a single girl scout. The sentence includes multiple girl scouts’ mothers.

Comparably, in the second example, multiple dogs covered their paws in mud. It wasn’t a single dog’s paw; therefore, the apostrophe appears after the “s.” 

Example three, “Dunkin’ Donuts,” is a little more complex as a proper attributive noun in the plural form that is singular in meaning. If it were a possessive proper noun, we could add an apostrophe’, but it’s not necessary here (source).

Possessive proper nouns can be tricky, and different style guides, like Chicago Manual and Associated Press, recommend different things. Let’s briefly look at how different writing styles would change the outcome of a word and where to put the apostrophe. 

When using singular proper nouns that end with an “s,” both AP and Chicago styles will use apostrophe-s. However, if the following word begins with an “s,” AP style will just use an apostrophe. For example: 

  • Texas’s rivers (CMOS)
  • Texas’ streams (AP)

Irregular Plurals

If the plural ends in a letter other than “s,” you must add both an apostrophe and an “s.” For example, “women,” “children,” “moose,” and “geese” are all plural words that do not end with an “s.” Using these words in the plural possessive would look like this:

  • Women’s rights are still being fought for every day. 
  • The children’s museum will be open tomorrow.
  • The moose’s antlers all look the same. 

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For more information on the topic of plurals and possessives, you can refer to this article “Class’s or Class’: Singular, Plural, and Possessive.” 

Final Thoughts 

Using plurals and possessives can completely change how we write a sentence and also affect its meaning. For example, when speaking about more than one friend, we use the plural “friends,” and when talking about something that belongs to a friend, we use the possessive “friend’s.”

Possessives can be especially challenging, and it’s helpful to remember that most singular words take “’s” to make them possessive. Plurals usually take an apostrophe after the “s,” and there are various rules to learn for exceptions to the rule.