MPC English & Study Skills Center

 

Possessives

Possessives show that one thing belongs to something else.  For example, my mother's hands = the hands of my mother (the hands belong to my mother).

There are a number of different rules about the use of possessives.

Rule 1:

Add an apostrophe and an s to most singular nouns and indefinite pronouns, even those that end in s or z.

Noun: Possessive: Example:
farm farm's The farm's acreage is limited.
girl girl's The girl's doll is on the table.
one one's One's belief system is important.
Bill Bill's Bill's car is a wreck.
worker worker's The worker's time card is missing.
sis sis's My sis's cell phone is broken.
Les Les's I met Les's wife at the party.
someone someone's I found someone's purse on the chair.
 

Exceptions:

In names of more than one syllable, ending in s, the additional s is optional if it won't be pronounced.

Noun: Possessive form 1: Possessive form 2:
Dickens Dickens' Dickens's
Demosthenes Demosthenes' Demosthenes's
 

In names of more than one syllable, ending in s, add only the apostrophe if the added s would make three s sounds in a row.

Noun: Possessive: Example:
Moses Moses' Moses' followers believed in his words.
Ulysses Ulysses' Ulysses' declaration of love is remarkable.
Jesus Jesus' The minister spoke of Jesus' speech to the crowd.

 

Rule 2:

Add only the apostrophe to regular plural nouns ending in s.

Noun: Possessive: Example:
twins twins' The twins' rooms are next to each other.
banks banks' The two banks' deposits are secured.
dollars dollars' Four dollars' worth of junk food is fattening.
clowns clowns' The six clowns' costumes were stolen.

 

Rule 3:

Add an apostrophe and s to irregular plural nouns that don't end in s.

Noun: Possessive: Example:
children children's The children's toys were all over the room.
mice mice's The mice's tracks were in the dust.
men men's The men's equipment room was locked.

Rule 4:

Add the possessive endings to the last part of hyphenated words, whether they are singular or plural.

Noun: Possessive: Example:
in-law in-law's My in-law's home is 20 miles away.
brothers-in-law brothers-in-law's My brothers-in-law's cars are both in the shop, so they are walking to work this week.

Rule 5:

Possessive adjective/pronouns are by nature already possessive and do not add the apostrophe.

Possessive Adjective Possessive Pronoun
my mine
your yours
his his
her hers
their theirs
its its

 

Note: Don't confuse the possessive "its" with the contraction "it's," which means "it is" or "it has."

Rule 6:

Add the possessive only to the last word to show that things are owned jointly.

Nouns: Possessive: Example:
Simon and Garfunkel Simon and Garfunkel's Simon and Garfunkel's songs are world-famous.

 

Joe and Mary Joe and Mary's Joe and Mary's son Thomas lives in Los Angeles.

 

Rule 7:

Add the possessive to all words to show that things are owned separately.

Simon and Garfunkel Simon's and Garfunkel's Simon's and Garfunkel's homes are in different places.
Joe and Mary Joe's and Mary's Joe's and Mary's cars are both in the shop.

 

 

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