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).
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
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
b) Add ‘s after the last letter of the noun
Example: James’s bike
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.