THE POSSESSIVE FORM OF NOUNS

Forming the possessive

The possessive form is used with nouns referring to people, groups of people, countries, and animals. ‘Belonging to’ or ‘ownership’ is one of the relationships it expresses :

  • John owns a car. (‘John’ is the possessor or owner)
  • It is John’s car.
  • America has some gold reserves. (‘America’ is the owner)
  • They are America’s gold reserves.

The possessive form of nouns 2

It can also express other relationships, for example:

where someone works or studies or spends time:

  • John goes to this school. This is John’s school.
  • John sleeps in this room. This is John’s room.

a family relationship:

  • John’s mother
  • The Queen’s daughter

qualities:

  • John’s patience.
  • The politician’s hypocrisy.

Form

To form the possessive, add ‘s (‘apostrophe -s’) to the noun.
If the noun is plural, or already ends in -s, just add: (an apostrophe).

For names ending in -s:

In speaking we add the sound /z/ to the name, but in writing it is possible to use either ‘s or just ‘. The ‘s form is more common. e.g. Thomas’s book, James’s shop.

Examples

  • The car of John = John’s car.
  • The room of the girls = The girls’ room.
  • Clothes for men = Men’s clothes.
  • The sister of Charles = Charles‘ sister.
  • The boat of the sailors = The sailors’ boat.

There are also some fixed expressions where the possessive form is used:

Time expressionsOther expressions
days workFor God’s sake!
fortnight’s holidaypound’s worth of apples.
month’s paythe water’s edge
today’s newspaperstone’s throw away (= very near)
in a year’s timeat death’s door (= very ill)
 in my mind’s eye (= in my imagination)

The possessive is also used to refer to shops, restaurants, churches and colleges, using the name or job title of the owner.

Examples:

the grocer’sthe doctor’sthe vet’s
the newsagent’sthe chemist’sSmith’s
the dentist’sTommy Tucker’sLuigi’s
Saint Mary’sSaint James’s 
  1. Shall we go to Luigi’s for lunch?
  2. I’ve got an appointment at the dentist’s at eleven o’clock.
  3. Is Saint Mary’s an all-girls school?

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