Nouns have a possessive form which is used to show ownership. Such nouns are called possessive nouns. They show ownership by adding an apostrophe and an s ( 's ) or just an apostrophe to a noun.
Apostrophe (') and an s ('s) after singular noun to show possessive form.
Place an apostrophe and an s after a singular noun to show it is the owner of the noun.
Apostrophe (') and an s ('s) after irregular plural noun to show possessive form.
If a noun is plural in an irregular way, add an apostrophe and an s to the end of the plural noun.
- He cut off the mice's tails.
- I stepped on one of the children’s toys and fell..
- They are renovating the elderly women's home.
- The group's latest song has topped the charts for two weeks.
Only apostrophe is added to regular plural noun.
If a noun is plural and ends in an s, add only an apostrophe to the end of the plural noun. No s needs to follow the apostrophe.
- Some girls' hair is shorter than some boys' hair.
- Their wives' parents shook each other warmly by the hand.
- The strong winds destroyed many of the villagers' houses.
- The lambs' tails are docked (= cut short) for hygiene reasons.
- I haven’t settled the last three months’ telephone bills.
- He had a three weeks' moustache growth drooping over his mouth.
- The holy books’ differences of the religions caused their followers to fight.
Apostrophe or no apostrophe after noun ends in s.
When a proper noun ends in s, the possessive form can take either an apostrophe and an s or only an apostrophe.
- 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.
- One of Thomas’s toes is broken.
- One of Thomas’ toes is broken.
Possessive noun not followed by noun.
So far, all possessive nouns are followed by a noun as shown above. But if a noun (for example, a place of business) is understood, a possessive noun with its apostrophe and s is not followed by a noun if the meaning is clear.
- He went to the barber's to have his hair cut.
- She was at the butcher's when I called her.
- His pet dog’s tail is shorter than his cat’s.
- I met her queuing at Long and Short’s this morning.
- His stomach is bloated from excessive drinking, but his brother’s is flat.
Two possessive nouns one after the other.
Sometimes two possessive nouns appearing one after the other may be necessary to indicate double ownership
Apostrophe indicates joint ownership.
When two nouns are joint owners of another that follows, only the second noun is in the possessive form of an apostrophe and an s.
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. .
Apostrophes indicate different owners.
When two nouns are owners of different assets, each of the two possessive nouns needs an apostrophe and an s.
Adam's and Eve's cars are parked one behind the other.
(There are two cars – one belongs to Adam while the other belongs to Eve.)
The police are keeping watch on the suspect's and his accomplice's houses
Compound possessive nouns.
If it is a hyphenated compound noun, add the apostrophe s ( ‘s ) to the last word.
- My father-in-law's car hit a van the other day.
If a compound noun includes a personal pronoun, all of them will have to be in the possessive form. This is done by adding the apostrophe s ( 's ) to the noun and making the pronoun a possessive personal pronoun.
- George's and my school is on the other side of the river.
- Take those that are Janet's and yours.
Using 'of', not apostrophe.
Use of to show possession, instead of an apostrophe.
- A big fat black crow perched on the roof of his house.
- (Not: A big fat black crow perched on his house’s roof.)
- Three fat passengers sat in the back of the car.
- (Not: Three fat passengers sat in the car’s back.)
- There is some dirt on the top of your desk.
- (Not: There is some dirt on your desk’s top.)
- The next morning, they reached the top of the mountain.
- (Not: The next morning, they reached the mountain’s top.)