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POSSESSIVE


The general rules concerning the possessive form of words, abbreviations, and phrases appear below. For exceptions and rules applicable to specialized cases, such as biblical names, consult an English grammar text.

    Common Nouns

  1. Create the possessive form of a singular or plural noun, which does not end in s, by adding an apostrophe and an s.

    • the child's ball
    • the people's choice
    • the car's color
    • the books' covers

    In instances involving compound nouns, the 's is added to the element nearest to that which is possessed.

    • the auditor general's report
    • the attorney at law's address

    In instances of joint possession, placing the apostrophe on the last element of a series.
    • Barton & Henderson's store
    • Eisenhower and Nixon's administration

    However, in instances of individual or alternative possession, use an apostrophe for each element of the series.

    • men's and women's clothing
    • bachelor's and master's degrees
    • New York's or New Jersey's governor


  2. Create the possessive form of a singular or plural noun, which ends with an s sound, by adding only an apostrophe.

    • the players' equipment
    • Tom Jones' television special
    • the cars' tires
    • the man's coat


    Proper Names

  3. Create the possessive form of a proper noun in the same manner as for a common noun. For singular proper names, add 's. For plural names, and some singular names, which end in an s, add only an apostrophe.

    • Canada's resources
    • United States' budget deficit
    • New Orleans' restaurants
    • the Whites' cottage
    • Jones' skates
    • Dickens' writings


  4. Create the possessive form of a name, which ends in a silent s, z, or x, by adding 's.

    • Perez's turn at bat
    • Des Moines's airport
    • Guy Marcoux's reputation


    Abbreviations

  5. Create the possessive form of an abbreviation in the same manner as you would for a word or term that was spelled out completely. Add 's for the singular possessive or an apostrophe only for the plural possessive.

    • the IRS's district offices
    • AT&T's 1-800-telephone number
    • NBC's newscast
    • IBM Corp.'s district sales office


    Numerals

  6. Create the possessive form of a noun that is composed of numerals in the same manner as you would for other nouns. Add 's for the singular possessive or an apostrophe only for the plural possessive.

    • 1995's convocation ceremony
    • the 1930s' economic reversals


    Phrases

  7. Create the possessive form of a phrase by adding an 's or apostrophe to the last word of the phrase.

    • his brother-in-law's house
    • board of trustees' meeting
    • a month or two's work


    Indefinite Pronouns

  8. Create the possessive form of indefinite pronouns by adding 's.

    • one's rights
    • anyone's decision
    • someone's hat
    • somebody's purse
    • everybody's efforts
    • somebody else's problem
    • each other's gifts
    • either's choice

    For some indefinite pronouns, it is preferable to indicate possession by using an "of" phrase.

    • the responsibility of each
    • the benefit of many
    • the safety of all


    Possessive Pronouns

  9. For possessive pronouns, do not use apostrophes.

    • his
    • hers
    • mine
    • ours
    • theirs
    • its


    Miscellaneous

  10. Do not use an apostrophe with plural nouns that are more descriptive than possessive.

    • singles bar
    • homeowners association
    • coalminers union
    • awards banquet
    • young presidents club
    • veterans memorial


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