Archived Material (grammar)

This book looks at some of the most common mistakes when it comes to grammar.

Apostrophes for possession

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Apostrophes used for possession

1.Singular possession
Explanation: An apostrophe and the letter 's' are used to show possession.It is important to put the apostrophe in the correct place, either before the 's' or after the 's', depending on whether the subject is singular or plural.

Example: The girl's bicycle

Commentary: The apostrophe  indicates that one bicycle belongs to one girl. The girl is the singular subject and the bicycle is the singular object

Remember: pay attention to where you are placing the apostrophe and what that signifies:

The apostrophe goes before the 's' for a single possessor (e.g., one boy's car) and after the 's' when it's more than one possessor (e.g., two boys' cars)

2. Plural possession
An apostrophe is used after the 's' when more than one person (or thing) owns the object (or objects).

Example: The  rabbits' hay is damp

Commentary: the subject ‘hay’ is singular so the verb will be singular too. Always make sure your verb is in agreement with your subject.                                       

3. Plural nouns not ending in 's' 
Example words:
men, people and children
Explanation: Plural words which do not end in the letter 's' have the apostrophe before the 's' when showing possession.

Example: She is the children's writer; she is the people's princess.

4. Singular nouns ending in 's'
Example words:
James, Wales, Paris and Dickens.
Singular words ending in 's' can either end in an apostrophe or 's' to show possession

Example: It is James's birthday or it is James' birthday

Commentary: both James' birthday and James's birthday are grammatically correct.

Remember: it's up to you!

Use the version which best matches how you would pronounce it. Use James's if you pronounce it "Jamesiz", but use James' if you pronounce it "James".

5. Compound nouns

Example words: brother-in-law;passer-by; doctor of philosophy; woman-doctor; secretary of state
Explanation: Some compound nouns do not form their plurals by adding 's' to the end.  The 's' is appended to the principal word eg/the plural is brothers-in-law. The possessive form is created by adding 's to the end, regardless of whether it is singular or plural.

Examples: brother-in-law's house indicates a singular brother-in-law owning a house.
Brothers-in-law's wives indicates plural brothers-in-law having a wife each.

6. Apostrophes with joint ownership

Explanation: Joint ownership is shown by making the last word in the series possessive; whereas, individual ownership is shown by making both (or all) parts possessive.

Example: Sarah and Becky's shop
Explanation: The factory is owned by both Sarah and Becky
Example: Sarah's and Becky’s shops
Explanation: Sarah and Becky jointly own shops.
Example: Sarah's shops and Becky's shops
Explanation: Sarah owns shops and Becky owns shops (not necessarily together)