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Apostrophes of Possession


Read all the rules below. Some are confusing so read slowly.

In your workbook make columns for each rule i.e. Rule 1A. Put the examples below under each heading.

NOW From your reading book find more examples to write under each rule.


Rule 1a. Use the apostrophe to show possession. To show possession with a singular noun, add an apostrophe plus the letter s.

a woman’s hat
the boss’s wife
Mrs. Chang’s house

Rule 1b. Many common nouns end in the letter s (lens, cactus, bus, etc.). So do a lot of proper nouns (Mr. Jones, Texas, Christmas).If a word ends in ‘s’ the most correct way to show possession is to put an apostrophe after the final ‘s’ i.e. James’.

Sometimes you may see words like Christmas’s. In this case the author want you to hear the final s sound distinctly. Therefore this can also be considered correct. The best rule is to be consistently with your use of the apostrophe.

the class’s hours
Mr. Jones’ golf clubs
the canvas’s size
Texas’ weather

Rule 2a. Regular nouns are nouns that form their plurals by adding either the letter s or -es(guy, guys; letter, letters; actress, actresses; etc.). To show plural possession, simply put an apostrophe after the s.

Correct: guys’ night out (guy + s + apostrophe)

Incorrect: guy’s night out (implies only one guy)

Correct: two actresses’ roles (actress + es + apostrophe)

Incorrect: two actress’s roles

Rule 2b. Do not use an apostrophe + s to make a regular noun plural.

Incorrect: Apostrophe’s are confusing.

Correct: Apostrophes are confusing.

Incorrect: We’ve had many happy Christmas’s.

Correct: We’ve had many happy Christmases.

Rule 2c. English also has many irregular nouns (child, nucleus, tooth, etc.). These nouns become plural by changing their spelling, sometimes becoming quite different words. You may find it helpful to write out the entire irregular plural noun before adding an apostrophe or an apostrophe + s.

Incorrect: two childrens’ hats

The plural is children, not childrens.

Correct: two children’s hats (children + apostrophe + s)

Incorrect: the teeths’ roots

Correct: the teeth’s roots

Rule 2d. Things can get really confusing with the possessive plurals of proper names ending in s, such as Hastings and Jones.

If you’re the guest of the Ford family—the Fords—you’re the Fords’ guest (Ford + s + apostrophe). But what if it’s the Hastings family?

Most would call them the “Hastings.” But that would refer to a family named “Hasting.” If someone’s name ends in s, we must add -es for the plural. The plural of Hastings is Hastingses. The members of the Jones family are the Joneses.

To show possession, add an apostrophe.

Incorrect: the Hastings’ dog

Correct: the Hastingses’ dog (Hastings + es + apostrophe)

Incorrect: the Jones’ car

Correct: the Joneses’ car

In serious writing, this rule must be followed no matter how strange or awkward the results

Rule 2e. Never use an apostrophe to make a name plural.

Incorrect: The Wilson’s are here.

Correct: The Wilsons are here.

Incorrect: We visited the Sanchez’s.

Correct: We visited the Sanchezes.

Rule 3. With a singular compound noun (for example, mother-in-law), show possession with an apostrophe + s at the end of the word.

Example: my mother-in-law’s hat

If the compound noun (e.g., brother-in-law) is to be made plural, form the plural first (brothers-in-law), and then use the apostrophe + s.

Example: my two brothers-in-law’s hats

Rule 4. If two people possess the same item, put the apostrophe + s after the second name only.

Example: Cesar and Maribel’s home is constructed of redwood.

However, if one of the joint owners is written as a pronoun, use the possessive form for both.

Incorrect: Maribel and my home

Correct: Maribel’s and my home

Incorrect: he and Maribel’s home

Incorrect: him and Maribel’s home

Correct: his and Maribel’s home

In cases of separate rather than joint possession, use the possessive form for both.

Cesar’s and Maribel’s homes are both lovely.
They don’t own the homes jointly.

Cesar and Maribel’s homes are both lovely.
The homes belong to both of them.


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