Grammar-ease: Showing Possession with Words Ending in ‘S’

If a word already ends in an s, do you add another to make it possessive? Or can you simply add an apostrophe?

Let’s look into the case of plural possessives today.apostrophe

To start, know that you want to use an apostrophe to show that a thing or person belongs to or relates to someone or something.

For plural words that end in an s, add an apostrophe to show possession:

  • Boys’ bunkhouse  (singular possessive: one boy’s bunk)
  • Girls’ school (singular possessive: a girl’s school)
  • Ferrets’ anctics (singular possessive: the ferret’s anctics)
  • Storms’ behaviors (singular possessive: the storm’s behavior)
  • Four-days’ journey (singular possessive: one-day’s journey)
  • Horses’ stable (singular possessive: a horse’s stall)
  • Countries’ laws (singular possessive: a country’s laws)

(Plural words that don’t end in s require the apostrophe s (‘s) to show possession: children’s, oxen’s, men’s, women’s, deer’s, mice’s, geese’s, and so on.)

*Proper names ending in s use the apostrophe s when you’d say/hear the extra ‘s’ in speech:

  • Thomas’s sister
  • James’s coat
  • Phyllis’s presentation
  • Charles’s truck
  • Dickens’s novels
  • Travis’s adventure

*Proper names ending in s use only the apostrophe when the extra s is not spoken:

  • Mr. Bridges’ complaint
  • Connors’ rendition
  • Socrates’ philosophy
  • Ulysses’ companions

Singular nouns that end in s, need the apostrophe s:

  • Boss’s anniversary
  • Bus’s axle
  • Witness’s account

*Note that style guides differ on whether to use an apostrophe s or only the apostrophe in regard to proper names that end in s. So if you’re working for a client that uses Chicago Manual of Style (add ‘s), Associated Press Style Book (add ‘), New York Times (‘s or ‘), or another style guide, check to see which format is used.

Have a great week!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

10 thoughts on “Grammar-ease: Showing Possession with Words Ending in ‘S’

  1. I had never heard the rule about “when the extra s is not spoken” and have always erred on using the ‘s on any word or name that is not plural. Thanks for that tip. The place I see the most confusion is how to make the name “Jesus” possessive. For most folks, Jesus’s just doesn’t look right!

  2. I was always under the impression that when the name ends with an ‘s’ that u only add the apostrophe and not another s.

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