Gransnet forums

Pedants' corner

Doctor's surgery

(45 Posts)
MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 09:53:07

This is a question really, regarding the apostrophe. Have I got my grammar right on this this right:

Doctor's Surgery - referring to a surgery/practice where there is only one doctor.

Doctors' surgery - referring to a surgery/practice where there are two or more doctors.
For example, at our local doctors' surgery, I can usually get an appointment quite quickly.

Doctor's surgeries - referring to more than one surgery/practice run by the same doctor.

Doctors' surgeries - a reference to these places in general. For example, doctors' surgeries across the country are finding it hard to recruit enough staff.

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 09:54:17

Spot the missing question mark. My proofreading is useless!

Pantglas2 Sun 27-Oct-19 09:55:31

MawB will sort this one - my English grammar is not that good!

Charleygirl5 Sun 27-Oct-19 09:58:49

I think you have it spot on.

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 10:08:56

I don't think I have ever had cause to write any of those in the past, but here on Gransnet there are many references to surgeries in the medical threads, and my eye is drawn to that apostrophe every time. Most people seem to be using the second version, as if there is just one doctor, and that is what got me thinking!

Bathsheba Sun 27-Oct-19 10:15:28

You are right on every count MamaCaz smile

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 10:22:05

I'm pleased about that, Bathsheba.

As someone who was taught no grammar whatsoever in secondary school (1970s), I have had to do a lot of learning since, and still sometimes feel the need to check that what I think I know is correct grin.

Eglantine21 Sun 27-Oct-19 10:57:24

All you have to do is ask the question Who does the surgery-surgeries belong to?” and put the apostrophe immediately after the answer.

Try it. It’s simple.

It works for everything.

mcem Sun 27-Oct-19 12:01:45

I'm just glad you didn't include surgery's as a choice.
Your punctuation looks fine - apart from your missing '?' which you spotted by yourself so that doesn't count!

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 12:08:09

What is the default position if we genuinely don't know if the word in wuestion should be singular or plural - for example, if I am in a new town and need to get my hair cut.

I might say, "I need to go to the hairdressers", and of course have no need of an apostrophe in speech, but where should it go in the written sentence when I don't know if the place in question will be run by one or several hairdressers?

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 12:11:26

Poor proofreading again! blush
(Though in my defence, I accidently tapped 'post' this time when I meant to tap 'preview'.)

Charleygirl5 Sun 27-Oct-19 12:23:16

If I am uncertain, I change the wording of the sentence-"I must make an appointment at the GP surgery for tomorrow".

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 13:21:12

So do I - but I would still feel obliged to use an apostrophe in your re-worded sentence. grin

Eglantine21 Sun 27-Oct-19 13:22:50

Umm, it doesn’t need an apostrophe at all. The hairdresser is the noun in the sentence as it stands. You would only say hairdressers if you were going to more than one.

I need to go to the hairdressers.

You would only need an apostrophe if “hairdressers” qualifies another noun such as “shop”.

I need to go to the hairdresser’s shop. (One hairdresser)

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 13:27:31

That is where my confusion sets in, Eglantine21, because I see sentences like I need to go to the hairdressers as shorthand for ... to the hairdresser's/hairdressers' shop.

Eglantine21 Sun 27-Oct-19 13:40:33

Ah well. The thing is the ‘s’ is short for ‘his’. A few hundred years ago you would have said “the hairdresser, his shop”. But like all speech it got shortened and then made its way into writing.

So you would never put “I need to go to the hairdresser’s” because you would really be saying I need to go to the hairdresser his....” which you would never do.🤭

oldgimmer1 Sun 27-Oct-19 13:49:16

I didn't know that, eglantine.

What if the hairdresser was female? Would it have been : "I'm going to the hairdresser, her shop"? Where would the 's come from? confused

Eglantine21 Sun 27-Oct-19 15:43:35

For a long time people still said “Mistress Majorie, her garden” or whatever, even when they had started using the shortened form of his. Then when that became everyday use it just transferred over to the feminine.

Aided, no doub, by the fact that women could not own shops, houses, animals, anything very much in their own right sometimes things belonged to “his”!!!!

Eglantine21 Sun 27-Oct-19 15:43:58


Grandma70s Sun 27-Oct-19 15:48:39

“The hairdresser, his shop” construction is later than the possessive ‘s as in “the hairdresser’s shop”. In Old English the s ending indicated the possessive, but some people then interpreted it as an abbreviation of ‘his’.

Eglantine21 Sun 27-Oct-19 16:21:31

I stand corrected😀

oldgimmer1 Sun 27-Oct-19 20:20:07

So...bearing in mind that an apostrophe suggests a missing letter, how would the possessive have been written in old English before the days of "the hairdresser, his shop"?

MamaCaz Sun 27-Oct-19 20:35:49

I have just found this interesting theory.

The 's' at the end of a word indicating possession ("The king's fashion sense") probably comes from the Old English custom of adding '-es' to singular genitive masculine nouns (in modern English, "The kinges fashion sense"). In this theory, the apostrophe stands in for the missing 'e'.

MawB Sun 27-Oct-19 21:14:37

The same principle applies to the Genitive (possessive) case in German, with masculine and neuter nouns, Mamacaz and no doubt to other languages in which I am not fluent.

notanan2 Sun 27-Oct-19 22:21:04

In a practice with multiple doctors, each surgery or clinic is still only run by one doctor. So surely it's still Doctor's surgeries if there is more than one, because each are running their individual surgery/clinic within the practice simultaniously?