Most of us have heard of the phrase “quality of life”, it’s commonly used in medical or legal terminology and increasingly in daily life when attempting to measure general happiness and wellbeing.
When it comes to phrasal nouns, though, it can sometimes be difficult knowing how to pluralize them. Is it “qualities of life” or “quality of lives”?
The correct pluralization of “quality of life” is “qualities of life”.
That being said, to me, it sounds odd, and fortunately “quality of life” is often used as a plural form in and of itself. The context of the sentence will determine which is more suitable.
Let’s explore why and how you can use “quality of life” or “qualities of life” when writing. The situations you use it in will largely determine how you pluralize the noun, so the key to getting it right is understanding the grammar behind it.
It is also worth remembering that both quality, and life, when pluralized, become qualities and lives respectively. It is not simply a case of adding an -s.
What Makes “Quality of Life” Difficult to Pluralize?
“Quality of life” is a phrasal noun, or a noun made up of more than one word joined by a preposition.
The three words together act as a single noun but when you try to pluralize the phrase, it can get confusing.
Independently, both “quality” and “life” can be pluralized, so, understandably, you might be uncertain whether to pluralize the phrase as “qualities of life” or “quality of lives”. If you’re going to pluralize, though, the correct form is “qualities of life”.
If we deconstruct the noun, you can see why “qualities” is the correct choice. In any context, “quality of life” is used to talk about the things that make life bearable and enjoyable.
Since it’s the things in life we’re talking about and not life itself, we should pluralize those things instead of the lives.
- “If you want to improve their qualities of life, they’ll need better funding.”
Here, we’re talking about improving the things in their life.
When Can “Quality of Life” be Used as a Plural Form?
In most cases, you’ll see the plural form of “quality of life” written just as it is. Why? Well, it’s because “quality” can work as both a countable and uncountable noun.
If we’re speaking generally, it’s better to use “quality of life” in a more general way, however, if you want to speak specifically, you can pluralize quality.
Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- The patients’ quality of life improved after the doctors provided them with better care.
- David’s qualities of life deteriorated when he could no longer walk without pain, and his coordination issues resulted in him needing extra support.
In the first example sentence, we use “quality of life” in a non-specific way and, therefore, don’t pluralize. However, in the second example sentence, we can identify specific areas where David’s qualities of life deteriorated.
As a phrasal noun, “quality of life” can be difficult to pluralize. If you want to pluralize, it would become qualities of life. However, if you’re speaking generally about someone’s happiness, you don’t have to pluralize the phrase. It can be used as a plural form without changing the grammar.