Possessive Nouns

Possessive comes from the same root as possession, something you own. Possessive nouns show ownership.

Don’t let the rules confuse you. They are very basic.
Rule 1: add ‘s to words to show possession.

Dog’s collar
(dog+’s)

sister’s backpack
(sister+’s)

car’s engine
(car+’s)

Rule 2 – the exception: If you have added an “s” to a word to make it plural, (cat ⇒ cats), adding ‘s will sound ridiculous (cats’s). In that case, add only the apostrophe.

Dogs’ collars
(dog+s+’)

sisters’ backpacks
(sister+s+’)

cars’ engines
(car+s+’)

Plurals that don’t end in s follow rule 1.

Children’s homework
(children+’s)

fish’s bowls
(fish+’s)

octopi’s tentacles
(octopi+’s)

If the s at the end of the word is part of the original word, follow rule 1.

Charles’s sneakers
(Charles+’s)

Bess’s dresses
(Bess+’s)

bus’s tires
(bus+’s)

Hint: To check a word, look in front of the apostrophe and see if the word is singular or plural. Examples: One dog|’s tail (one dog has one tail), Two dogs|’ tails (two dogs have two tails).

  • If two people own something together, use an ‘s after the second person.

Joe and Mary’s car is new.

  • If two people each own their own of something, they each get ‘s.

Laurie’s and Megan’s nails are painted the same color.

  • You may find certain names that end in s add just an apostrophe. That rule is somewhat old-fashioned. Names like Jesus, Moses, Achilles, Charles Dickens (historical names that end in iz or eez sounds) can have just the ‘ or ‘s.

Jesus’ parables were intstructional stories. Moses’ first tablets were broken.
Jesus’s parables were instructional stories. Moses’s first tablets were broken.

We usually pronounce the extra s, so adding ‘s is just as correct in modern writing.

Note: Possessive nouns act as adjectives in sentences. They modify the nouns that follow them.

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