How Do You Pluralize "Quality of Life"?
Updated: Mar 3, 2020
Quick: What's the plural of "quality of life"?
If you said "quality of lives," you would be incorrect.
This situation comes up frequently in my writing because I prefer to pluralize my subject (often "patients"). Doing so helps me avoid strained constructions such as, "The patient needs to change his or her dressing daily," and instead write, "Patients need to change their dressings daily."
Inevitably, I reach a point in the content where a sentence is called for similar to this one: "Patients tend to experience improved qualities of life."
Yes, the plural of quality of life is qualities of life. And most of my clients hate it. Admittedly it sounds awkward, but only because most of us aren't in the habit of using correct English in all situations. However, the noun in the phrase is quality, which is why it should be pluralized rather than of life, which is merely the modifier.
Happily, the phrase quality of life is often used in a non-specific enough way that it would also be acceptable to use it to stand in for the plural form. Therefore, "Patients tend to experience improved quality of life," is correct. While technically not all patients will have the same quality of life after a medical intervention, in general everyone's quality of life will likely be better. When used in this more general sense, quality of life can be both singular and plural.
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