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Possessive Nouns

Indicating possession
Possessives for common nouns

SINGULAR After a singular noun add an apostrophe + s. SINGULAR COMMON NOUN Our school's soccer team won several games. The state's soccer team won several games. The country's soccer team won several games. SINGULAR COMMON NOUNS FOLLOWED BY -S The class's soccer team (MLA 3.2.7e) (CMOS 7.18) The class's teamnot followed by a word starting with s (AP 323) BUT: The class' soccer team followed by a word starting with s (AP 323) OTHER A day's journey / a twenty minutes's delay. Today's news / tomorrow's weather / Sunday's newspaper days and time A pound's worth of peanuts / a dollar's worth of gas a quantify worth My daughter-in-law's profession in-law expressions (CMOS 7.25) 1968's music was great. a specific year EXCEPT: NOUNS PLURAL IN FORM BUT SINGULAR IN MEANING Economics' contribution / Mathematics' rules Linguistics' explanation The series' first game for righteousness'/Jesus'/ goodness' sake PLURAL After a plural personal noun add an apostrophe after the s. SINGULAR COMMON PLURAL NOUN The schools' soccer teams won several games. The states' soccer teams won several games. The countries' soccer teams won several games. PLURAL COMMON NOUNS FOLLOWED BY -S The classes' soccer teams See notes below regarding final s.

EXCEPT: NOUNS SINGULAR IN FORM BUT PLURAL IN MEANING The children's / men's / women's soccer team The people's vote The sheep's / deer's / moose's / oxen's eyes The alumni's contributions

Also see Apostrophes.

Proper Nouns
Possessive markers for proper nouns

SINGULAR After singular proper noun add an apostrophe + s (even if the proper noun ends in -s) Jason's ball went over the fence. Charles's ball went over the fence. (MLA 3.2.7e) (CMOS 7.18) Charles' ball went over the fence. (AP 323) James's hat blew away. (MLA 3.2.7e) (CMOS 7.18) James' hat blew away. (AP 323) OTHER Coach Burns's soccer team won several games. two-word nouns) Andy and Manuel's team is staying late for practice. double nouns FDR's policies / JFK's assassination initials Yahoo!'s chief executive officer keyboard symbols PLURAL After most proper nouns, first create the plural, then add an apostrophe. (Note that the plural form for words ending in -s, -z or -x adds -es.) The Wagners' house (sing. Wagner; pl. Wagners) The Burnses' field (sing. Burns; pl. Burnses) The Martinezes' yard (sing. Martinez; pl. Martinezes) The Marxes' daughter The Hawaiian Islands' soccer teams EXCEPT: SINGULAR: ORGANIZATIONS, GROUPS, UNIONS The United States' soccer team (CMOS 7.19) The Boy Scouts' soccer team The National Academy of Sciences' new building The Red Fox Hills' neighborhood soccer team

A proper noun is a name for a person, organization, group or country. For more detail, see Apostrophes.

Possessive Nouns
Inanimate "Things"
Possessive Forms for Things

APOSTROPHE + S Using the apostrophe + s form for "things" is informal. The goalpost's leg was broken. I dropped my keys at the bed's foot. (awkward sounding) My my brother's best-friend's soccer team won. (confusing) The wet, slippery field's grass prevented us from playing. (awkward sounding) THE X OF __ Using of for "things" is more acceptable in academic and business English. Of is also used to clarify meaning. See examples below. The leg of the goal post was broken. I dropped my keys at the foot of the bed. (maintain an expression) The soccer team of my brother's best-friend won. (simplify a series of possessives) The wet, slippery grass of the field prevented us from playing. (improve modifier placement)

Also see Apostrophes the X of and / The-Countries / The-Landmarks

Days and Holidays
Possessives for Days & Holidays

SINGULAR The apostrophe is placed before the S in singular-noun holidays. Today's date is December 31. This year's movies were excellent. We are going out on New Year's Eve. More chocolate is sold on Valentine's Day than any other day. I'll send a card to my mother on Mother's Day. The kids make breakfast for their father on Father's Day. Everyone wears green on Saint Patrick's Day. PLURAL The apostrophe is placed after S in plural-noun holidays. I was paid well for thirty days' work. The last few years' best movies have all used CGI. (computer generated images) We play jokes on people on April Fools' Day.

All Saints' Day is celebrated on November 1. * Veterans Day is the day we honor those who have fought in past wars. * Presidents Day is the day we honor those who have fought in past wars. *Neither Veterans Day nor Presidents Day occurs with an apostrophe.

Mother's Day and Father's Day are creations of Anne Jarvis who chose to make the noun form singular so that each mother or father would be specially honored. CGI (n.) - an acronym meaning computer generated images

Numbers and Letters
Singular v. Plural Numbers and Letters

SINGULAR An apostrophe is placed after a singualr number, letter or keyboard character. As I remember, 1964's earthquake was relatively small. (in the year1964) JFK's assassination was shocking. (President John Fitzgerald Kennedy) Yahoo!'s chief executive is making an announcement. PLURAL The apostrophe is placed after S in plural-noun holidays. The 1960s' music was influenced by the Beatles. (in the decade 1960) The initial IPOs' values were higher than now. (initial public offerings of stock)

Grammar Notes
Traditional Grammar and Linguistic Description Advanced CMOS, MLA & APA The traditional rule, as found in the Chicago Manual of Style, MLA Handbook and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association: A singular noun, common and proper, ending in s forms the possessive by adding 's: house/house's, boss/boss's, Davis/Davis's, Charles/Charles's. This adds an additional syllable to the original word: /s/ or /z/, depending upon the previous consonant. Exceptions to this rule are ancient names: Jesus', Moses', Socrates', Euripides'. Plural nouns ending in s form the possessive by adding an apostrophe: parents' love, friends' support, the Williamses' house Joneses' car. Exceptions to the rule are plural nouns with irregular forms: children's toys, women's fashions. AP Stylebook A more modern approach can be found in the AP Stylebook, which specifies the guidelines for newspapers:

Singular common nouns ending in s: add 's unless the next word begins with s: the hostess's invitation, the hostess' seat; the witness's answer; the witness' story. Singular proper nouns ending in s: add an apostrophe: Williams' plays, Dickens' novels, Hercules' labors, Jesus' life (but not St. James's Palace). Plural nouns ending in s add only an apostrophe: the girls' toys, the horses' tail, the states' rights, the boss' office.