Possessive Nouns

Indicate possession 

The class' soccer team

 

 

 

Possessives for common nouns

SINGULAR

apostrophe SAfter a singular noun add an apostrophe + s.    See notes below regarding final s.

SINGULAR COMMON NOUN

Our school's soccer team won several games.

The state's soccer team won several games.

The country's soccer team won several games.   

SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS FOLLOWED BY -S

The class's soccer team (MLA 3.2.7e)  (CMOS 7.18)

The class's teamnot followed by a word starting with s (AP 323)

BUT:  The class' soccer team  followed by a word starting with s (AP 323) 

OTHER

A day's journey / a twenty minutes's delay.

Today's news / tomorrow's weather / Sunday's newspaper days and time

A pound's worth of peanuts / a dollar's worth of gas  a quantify worth

My daughter-in-law's profession in-law expressions (CMOS 7.25)

1968's music was great.  a specific year 
   

EXCEPT:  NOUNS PLURAL IN FORM BUT SINGULAR IN MEANING

Economics' contribution / Mathematics' rules

Linguistics' explanation

The series'  first game

for righteousness'/Jesus'/ goodness' sake

PLURAL

 S apostropheAfter a plural personal noun add an apostrophe after the s.

SINGULAR COMMON PLURAL NOUN

The schools' soccer teams won several games.

The states' soccer teams won several games.

The countries' soccer teams won several games.   

PLURAL COMMON NOUNS FOLLOWED BY -S

The classes' soccer teams

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EXCEPT: NOUNS SINGULAR IN FORM BUT PLURAL IN MEANING

The children's / men's / women's soccer team

The people's vote

The sheep's / deer's / moose's / oxen's / fish's eyes…

The alumni's contributions

 

Style Manual Abbreviations: AP (Associated Press), APA (American Psychological Association), CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), GREGG (Gregg Reference Manual); MLA (MLA Handbook)

Also see Apostrophes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possessives

Proper Nouns

 

 

 

Possessive markers for proper nouns

SINGULAR

apostrophe SAfter singular proper noun add an apostrophe + s (even if the proper noun ends in -s)

Jason's ball went over the fence. 

Charles's ball went over the fence. (MLA 3.2.7e)  (CMOS 7.18)

Charles' ball went over the fence.  (AP 323)

James's hat blew away. (MLA 3.2.7e)  (CMOS 7.18)

James' hat blew away.  (AP 323) 

OTHER

Coach Burns's soccer team won several games.  two-word nouns)

Andy and Manuel's team is staying late for practice. double nouns

FDR's policies / JFK's assassination initials

Yahoo!'s chief executive officer  keyboard symbols

PLURAL

 S apostropheAfter most proper nouns, first create the plural, then add an apostrophe.  (Note that the plural form for words ending in -s, -z or -x adds -es.)

The Wagners' house  (sing. – Wagner; pl. Wagners)

The Burnses' field (sing. – Burns; pl. Burnses)

The Martinezes' yard  (sing. – Martinez; pl. Martinezes)

The Marxes' daughter

The Hawaiian Islands' soccer teams

EXCEPT: SINGULAR: ORGANIZATIONS, GROUPS, UNIONS

The United States' soccer team     (CMOS 7.19)

The Boy Scouts' soccer team

The National Academy of Sciences' new building

The Red Fox Hills' neighborhood soccer team

 

A proper noun is a name for a person, organization, group or country.
For more detail, see Apostrophes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possessive Nouns

Inanimate – "Things"

Broken goal post
 

 

Possessive Forms for Things

APOSTROPHE + S

Using the apostrophe + s  form for "things" is informal.

The goalpost's leg was broken.

I dropped my keys at the bed's foot(awkward sounding)

My my brother's best-friend's soccer team won. (confusing)

The wet, slippery field's grass prevented us from playing.  (awkward sounding)
 

THE X OF __ 

Using of for "things" is more acceptable in academic and business English.  Of is also used to clarify meaning.  See examples below.

The leg of the goal post was broken.

I dropped my keys at the foot of the bed.   (maintain an expression)

The soccer team of my brother's best-friend won. (simplify a series of possessives)

The wet, slippery grass of the field prevented us from playing. (improve modifier placement)  

 

Also see Apostrophes  the X of  and  / The-Countries  / The-Landmarks

 

 

 

 

 

Possessives

Days and Holidays

champagne
 

 

Possessives for Days & Holidays

SINGULAR

The apostrophe is placed before the S in singular-noun holidays.

Today's date is December 31.

This year's movies were excellent.

We are going out on New Year's Eve.

More chocolate is sold on Valentine's Day than any other day.

I'll send a card to my mother on Mother's Day.

The kids make breakfast for their father on Father's Day.

Everyone wears green on Saint Patrick's Day.
 

PLURAL

The apostrophe is placed after S in plural-noun holidays.  

I was paid well for thirty days' work.

The last few years' best movies have all used CGI.  (computer generated images)

We play jokes on people on April Fools' Day.

All Saints' Day  is celebrated on November 1.

* Veterans Day is the day we honor those who have fought in past wars.

* Presidents Day is the day we remember the birthdays of former presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

 *Neither Veterans Day nor Presidents Day occurs with an apostrophe.

 

Mother's Day and Father's Day are creations of Anne Jarvis who chose to make the noun form singular so that each mother or father would be specially honored. 
CGI (n.) - an acronym meaning computer generated images

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Possessives

Numbers and Letters

 

 

 

Singular v. Plural Numbers and Letters

SINGULAR

An apostrophe is placed after a singualr number, letter or keyboard character.

As I remember, 1964's earthquake was relatively small.  (in the year1964)

JFK's assassination was shocking.  (President John Fitzgerald Kennedy)

Yahoo!'s chief executive is making an announcement.  

PLURAL

The apostrophe is placed after S in plural-noun holidays.  

The 1960s' music was influenced by the Beatles.  (in the decade 1960)

The initial IPOs' values were higher than now. (initial public offerings of stock)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Punctuation Notes

Style Manual Variations

 

 

 

Rules regarding final s possessives

FINAL APOSTROPHE —BOSS'  CHARLES' 

Traditional rules form the possessive for nouns ending in with a final apostrophe (boss → boss' and Charles → Charles').

This approach can be found in the AP Stylebook, which specifies the following guidelines:

Singular common nouns ending in s: add 's unless the next word begins with s: the hostess's invitation, the hostess' seat; the witness's answer; the witness' story.

Singular proper nouns ending in s add an apostrophe: Williams' plays, Dickens' novels, Hercules' labors, Jesus' life (but not St. James's Palace).

Plural in form but singular in meaning: mathematics' rules, measles' effect

Singular and plural form is the same: the Marine Corps' trucks, two deer's tails.

Plural nouns ending in s add only an apostrophe: the girls' toys, the horses' tail, the states' rights, the boss' office, General Motors' profits, United States' policy.

(AP 192)

APOSTROPHE + S—BOSS'S  CHARLES'S

Newer rules simplify the formation of possessives:

(1) final 's  is added to all singular nouns, even those ending in s (toy → toys, boss → boss's, and Charles → Charles's);

(2) final ' (apostrophe) is added after all plural nouns (bosses'  Charleses').

A singular noun, common and proper, ending in s forms the possessive by adding 's: house/house's, boss/boss's, Davis/Davis's, Charles/Charles's. This adds an additional syllable to the original word: /ɪs/ or /ɪz/, depending upon the previous consonant. Exceptions to this rule are ancient names: Jesus', Moses', Socrates', Euripides'.

Plural nouns ending in s form the possessive by adding an apostrophe: parents' love, friends' support, the Williamses' house  Joneses' car. Exceptions to the rule are plural nouns with irregular forms: children's toys, women's fashions.

MLA (3.2.7); APA (4.12); CMOS (7.18-26) 

The Gregg Reference Manual adds:

When a singular word ends in a silent s, add 'sIllinois's Capitol, Degas's painting, Des Moines's freeways.

When a singular word ends in a s and a new syllable is formed in the pronunciation of the possessive, add 's: Congress's bill, Dallas's center, St. Louis's airport.

When a singular word ends in s and the addition of an extra syllable would make a word hard to pronounce, add the apostrophe only.   Peter Jennings' newscast, Jesus' stories.

(GREGG 630)

 

Style Manual Abbreviations (used in this website)

 

Resources 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Practice 1

Possessives 

family

 

 

 

  1. Select the response from the list that best completes the sentence. 
  2. Compare your response to the feedback by clicking the "check" button.

 

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