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Possessives of Nouns

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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Words are also characterized as nouns by their ability to form possessives. Again, some pronouns have this ability as well (other, other’s). So before we explore the main functions of nouns, let’s pause to address an issue that sparks considerable controversy in offices, classrooms, faculty lounges, and Bubba’s Bar & Grill.

How do you form the possessives of nouns?

To make singular nouns possessive, just add “apostrophe ‑s.” To make plural nouns ending in an ‑s possessive, just add an apostrophe.The rule is easy to follow but trips up a lot of people.

What happens if the singular noun ends in an ‑s? How do you make the word boss possessive? Simple. Follow the rule.

Add “apostrophe ‑s” to make a singular noun possessive.

The boss’s rules governed our acts.

Congress’s policy showed up in the statute.

Bridget Jones’s Diary The movie got it right.

Charles’s birthday party

This is Rule 1, page 1 of Strunk & White. It is also the rule of the Chicago Manual of Style and other leading style books.

The singular-noun rule does have a few exceptions. Form the possessives of biblical terms ending in ‑s by adding an apostrophe: Jesus’ disciples; Moses’ followers. Also, by tradition we write: for appearance’ (righteousness’, etc.) sake.

Two or More Possessors

Juan and Marlene’s Children?

If two or more possessors possess the same entity, then add “apostrophe ‑s” to the last possessor.

Juan and Marlene’s children (Juan and Marlene are mom and dad).

But if each possessor separately possesses, then add “apostrophe ‑s” to each possessor.

Juan’s and Marlene’s children (Juan and Marlene each have their own children).

Business with Plural Noun

General Motors’ Annual Report

Many businesses use plural words to form their names. Even though the name of the business is itself a singular noun, just add an apostrophe to the plural word to form the possessive.

General Motors’ annual report.

I have no clue on how to form the possessive of McDonald’s.

McDonald’s’s annual report? McDonald’s’ annual report?

Maybe just McDonald’s annual report.

Hard Copy

You may download our entire discussion of the Parts of Speech. Simply download the Grammar eBook Understanding the Parts of Speech.


Previous: Group Nouns - Singular or Plural

Next: What Nouns Do

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  • Becky611
    So if I’m addressing a card to my son’s family with the last name of Howell, do I address it to: The Howells or The Howell’s? I’m thinking the latter is correct.
    LikeReply 12 years ago
  • Andrew DeGiorgio
    Andrew DeGiorgio
    Very useful! Thank you.
    LikeReply 14 years ago
  • Santi Viscarra
    Santi Viscarra
    And what if it is like (success of the actress)... Where should I put the apostrophy??????
    LikeReply 18 years ago
    • Josiah Taylor
      Josiah Taylor
      It's either Successes of the actress, Success of the actresses, or Successes of the actresses. No apostrophe necessary .
      LikeReply 18 years ago
    • Brendix Emata
      Brendix Emata
      Josiah Taylor
      LikeReply 17 years ago
    • Brendix Emata
      Brendix Emata
      actresses' successes
      LikeReply 17 years ago


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