Saturday, February 11, 2006


Possession Exorcises

the alumni + contributions

alumni’s contributions

women + rights.

women’s rights.

So, what’s the rule?

Add ’s to plural nouns not ending in S

the churches + needs

churches’ needs

the girls + toys

girls’ toys

So, what’s the rule?

Add only an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in S

the church + needs

church’s needs

the girl + toys

girl’s toys

the VIP + seat

VIP’s seat

Butz + policies

Butz’s policies

Marx + theories

Marx’s theories

So, what’s the rule?

Add ’s to singular nouns not ending in S

mathematics + rules

mathematics’ rules

measles + effects

measles’ effects

So, what’s the rule?

Add only an apostrophe to nouns plural in form but singular in meaning.

one corps + location

corps’ location

the two deer + tracks

deer’s tracks

the lone moose + antlers

moose’s antlers

So, what’s the rule?

With nouns the same in singular and plural, treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular.

the hostess + invitation

hostess’s invitation

the hostess + seat

hostess’ seat

the witness + answer

witness’s answer

the witness + story

witness’ story

So, what’s the rule?

With singular common nouns ending in S, add ’s unless the next word begins with S

Achilles + heel

Achilles’ heel

Agnes + book

Agnes’ book

Jesus + life

Jesus’ life

Kansas + schools

Kansas’ schools

So, what’s the rule?

With singular proper names ending in S, use only an apostrophe.

for appearance + sake

for appearance’ sake

for conscience + sake

for conscience’ sake

for goodness + sake

for goodness’ sake

So, what’s the rule?

With special expressions, the rule for words not ending in S apply to words that end in an S sound and are followed by a word that begins with S

the major general + decision

the major general’s decision

the major generals + decisions

the major generals’ decisions

the attorney general + request

the attorney general’s request

the attorneys general + request

the attorneys general’s request

So, what’s the rule?

With compound words, add an apostrophe or ’S to the word closest to the object possessed.


Fred and Sylvia + apartment

Fred and Sylvia’s apartment

Fred and Sylvia + stocks

Fred and Sylvia’s stocks

So, what’s the rule?

Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint.


Fred and Sylvia + books

Fred’s and Sylvia’s books

So, what’s the rule?

Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned.

Descriptive vs. Possessive

citizens + band radio

citizens band radio (a radio band for citizens)

a Cincinnati Reds + infielder

a Cincinnati Reds infielder (an infielder for …)

a teachers + college

a teachers college (a college for teachers)

a writers + guide

a writers guide (a guide for writers)

So, what’s the rule?

Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in S when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense.

Other Examples:

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant likes to shoot. (Lakers ends in S)

Orland Magic's guard J.J. Redick likes to shoot. (Magic does not end in S)

The Beatles' drummer, Ringo Starr, hosted a childrens television show. (The "the" makes this possessive.)

The company name is Wendy's. And "Wendy's new menu features salads" is correct because you use only one apostrophe because the noun is actually expressing the possession of the noun that follows it. For a discussion on this see this link.


Actors + Equity

Actors’ Equity

Diners + Club

Diners Club

the Ladies + Home Journal

the Ladies’ Home Journal

the National Governors + Association

the National Governors Association

So, what’s the rule?

With descriptive names, follow the style of name.


a day + pay

a day’s pay

two weeks + vacation

two weeks’ vacation

three days + work

three days’ work

your money + worth

your money’s worth

So, what’s the rule?

Follow the rules above.

a friend of John (1 of many)

He is a friend of John’s

He is a friend of the college (1 of many)

He is a friend of the college.

The friends of John Adams mourned his death. (All friends)

The friends of John Adams mourned his death.

So, what’s the rule for double possessives in which you would use an apostrophe?

1. The word after of must refer to an animate object

2. The word before of must involve only a portion of the animate object’s possessions.

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