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 that follows.

 

Examples:

  • That is Tom's cat. (Tom is the owner of the cat.)
  • The child is pulling the cow's tail.
  • Everybody's shoes must be left outside the door.
  • We all like the professor's voice.
  • The plane's tail section had broken off.
  • This is another failed attempt on the President's life.

 

Apostrophe (') and an s ('s) after plural noun to show possessive form
If a noun is plural and does not end in an s, add an apostrophe and an s to the end of the plural noun.

 

Examples:

  • 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 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 need follow the apostrophe.

 

Examples:

  • Some girls' hair is shorter than some boys' hair.
  • Their wives' parents shook each of us warmly by the hand.
  • The strong winds destroyed many of the villagers' houses.
  • The lambs' tails are docked (= cut short) for hygiene reasons.
  • He had a three weeks' moustache growth drooping over his mouth. 

 

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.

 

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, Jalmes' factory was burnt down last night.

 

Possessive noun not followed by noun
So far, all possessive nouns are followed by nouns 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 the noun.

 

Examples:

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

 

Two possessive nouns one after the other
Sometimes two possessive nouns appearing one after the other may be necessary to indicate double ownership.

 

Examples:

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

 

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.

 

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. 

 

Apostrophes indicate different owners
When two nouns are owners of different assets, each of the two possessive nouns needs an apostrophe and an s.

 

Examples:

  • 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.

 

Examples:

  • 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.