Forming Possessive Nouns | Grammar Rules & Examples

Learn how to form Possessive Nouns in English with examples.

What Are Possessive Nouns?

A possessive noun is a noun that names who or what owns or has possession of something.

In most cases, for singular nouns to show that possession, we add an apostrophe + s. For plural nouns we simply an apostrophe except for those few plural nouns that do not end in s.

Example:

The car’s front seat

Bartkowski’s book

Babies’ shoes

Lemons’ acidity

Owls’ eyes

Forming Possessive Nouns | Rules

When creating the possessive form of nouns, there are 5 simple rules as follows:

Rule 1: Making singular nouns possessive

  • If a singular noun, add ‘s.

Example:

The delivery boy’s truck was blocking the driveway.

The cat’s toy was missing.

  • Even if the singular noun is a proper noun (i.e. a name), add ‘s.

Example:

Richard’s attempts to solve the problem were rewarded.

  • If names ending in s, you can either add an apostrophe + s, or just an apostrophe. The first option is more common. When pronouncing a possessive name, we add the sound /z/ to the end of the name.

Charles’s car (or Charles’ car)

Chambers’s house (or Chambers’ house)

Chris’s exam (or Chris’ exam)

Rule 2: Making plural nouns possessive

  • If a noun is plural in form and ends in an s, add an apostrophe only.

Example:

The instructor asked us to analyze ten poems’ meanings.

The dog catcher had to check all of the dogs’ tags.

It is hard to endure the Marine Corps’ style of discipline.

  • If a plural noun does not end in s, add ‘s.

Example:

The children’s clothes were brand new.

The prices of men’s shoes run from £30 to £90.

Rule 3: Indicating possession when two nouns are joined together

  • If there is joint possession, use the correct possessive for only the possessive closest to the noun.

Example:

Clinton and Gore’s campaign was successful.

She was worried about her mother and father’s marriage.

Beavis and Butthead’s appeal is absolutely lost on me.

Rule 4: Indicating possession when two nouns are joined, and ownership is separate

  • If there is a separate possession of the same noun, use the correct possessive form for each word.

Example:

The owner’s and the boss’s excuses were equally false.

The dog’s and the cats’ owners were in school when the fire broke out.

Rule 5: Making hyphenated or compound nouns possessive

  • With hyphenated or compound nouns, use the correct possessive form for the word closest to the noun. Avoid possessives with compound plurals.

Example:

My mother-in-law’s recipe for meatloaf is my husband’s favorite.

The forest ranger’s truck is painted an ugly shade of green.

Your neighborhood letter carrier’s job is more difficult than you imagine.

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