The Apostrophe - Possessive nouns (Basic usage)

The Apostrophe – Possessive nouns (Basic usage)

Written by Lilian Ndongmo. ESL Teacher

The apostrophe is generally used to indicate possession (one thing belongs to another). Possession can be used with a person, place or thing (abstract or concrete).

For example:

Mary, George, Simon (person)

Canada, USA, Mexico, Brazil, London (place)

Dog (concrete thing)

Today, yesterday (abstract word)

How to use the apostrophe with nouns

There are two main types of nouns: singular nouns and plural nouns. We can now add the possessive form (the apostrophe) to these nouns.

Singular possessive (the possessive form for singular nouns)

Add ‘s to singular nouns that do not end in S

Example: Peter’s book

Mexico’s population

The school’s library

One week’s notice

For nouns that end in S, there are two ways you can indicate the possessive:

a) Add only an apostrophe after the last letter of the noun.

Example: James’ bike

Elvis’ song

b) Add ‘s after the last letter of the noun

Example: James’s bike

Elvis’s song

Note: Both options are correct.

Plural possessives (the possessive form for plural nouns)

a) If the word is a regular plural noun: Add only an apostrophe to the last letter of the word.

Example: The boys’ bags.

The students’ books

Two birds’ nests

b) If the word is an irregular plural noun: Add ‘s to the last letter of the word.

Example: The children’s money

The people’s president

The mice’s trap

Remember: Using the apostrophe makes your sentences shorter. For example:

Peter’s bag has the same meaning as The bag of Peter. How many more words does the second sentence have? Both sentences are correct. It is up to you to choose which to use.