Nouns have a possessive form. We use it to show ownership.

 

To show the possessive form, put an apostrophe (') and an s – 's – after a singular noun

Examples:

  • This is my dog and that is Tom's cat.
  • The child is pulling the cow's tail.
  • Everybody's shoes must be left outside the door.
  • We all like the church's teaching on forgiveness.

 


Use an apostrophe and an s ('s) after plural nouns that do not end in s to make the possessive form

Examples:

  • The plane's tail section had broken off.
  • This is the second attempt on the president's life.
  • Some people's houses in the neighbourhood are bigger than ours.
  • He cut off the mice's tails.

 

When making plural possessive nouns which end with an s, add only an apostrophe

Examples:

  • The girls' mother is taller than the boys' mother.
  • Their wives' parents were present in the Christmas celebrations.
  • The strong winds destroyed all the villagers' houses.
  • He had three days' moustache growth drooping over his mouth.

 

Two possessive forms ('s)may appear one after the other

Examples:

  • She is Jim's brother's girlfriend.
  • This is Tom's car and that is Tom's father's car.
  • Jane's dog's bushy tail wags furiously when she arrives home.

 

When two nouns/names that are joined together are joint owners, the possessive form should take an 's after the second name only

Examples:

  • On that hill is Jack and Jill's house. (The house belongs to both Jack and Jill)
  • Paul and Paula's mother is a doctor.

 

When two nouns (names) that are joined together have different ownership, each will need an apostrophe s ('s) added

Examples:

  • Adam's and Eve's cars are parked one behind the other.
  • The police are keeping watch on the suspect's and his accomplice's houses.

 

When a name ends in s, the possessive form can take either an apostrophe and an s ('s) or only an apostrophe

Examples:

  • This is a portrait of King Charles's wife.
  • This is a portrait of King Charles' wife.
  • My uncle James's factory was burnt down last night.
  • My uncle James' factory was burnt down last night. 

 

Only an apostrophe and an s ('s) is used when the place of business is understood and thus not stated

Examples:

  • He went to the barber's to have his hair cut.
  • She was at the butcher's when I called her.

 

When an apostrophe is not used

When the word its is used, it indicates possession. Inserting an apostrophe so that it becomes it's gives it a different meaning; it's is a contraction of it is.

It's your turn to make the dinner. = It is your turn to make the dinner.

To show possession, do not use an apostrophe

Examples:

  • The dog is licking its paw. (The paw belongs to the dog as indicated by the possessive its.)
  • It flapped its wings and flew off.
  • Their house has its own swimming pool.