What is a Possessive Noun? | Definition and Examples
- Grammar Lessons >
- Possessive Nouns
Overview of Possessive Nouns:
- What Are Possessive Nouns?
- Singular Possessive Nouns
- Plural Possessive Nouns
- Special Rules for Nouns Ending with "s"
- Inanimate Possessive Nouns
- Compound Possessive Nouns
- Possessives with Two Nouns
- Possessives in Names of Places, Churches, and Universities
- Possessives in Idiomatic Expressions
- Using Possessives before Gerunds
- Avoiding Possessives when There Is No Ambiguity
- Possessive Nouns - Quiz
A possessive noun is a noun that denotes ownership or possession.
girls' day out
the fruit's taste
It doesn't take much to change a singular noun into a possessive noun. All you need to know is you must add an apostrophe and the letter "s".
Plural nouns that end with "s" are made possessive by an apostrophe being added to the end.
Irregular and regular plural nouns that don't end with "s" are changed into possessives by an apostrophe and an "s" being added to them.
Below are a few special rules of forming possessive nouns from nouns ending with us. These are in compliance with The Chicago Manual of Style.
Add apostrophe -s to singular common nouns ending in "s".
the canvas's quality
Add apostrophe for plural common nouns ending in "s".
Teachers' working hours
Add apostrophe-s for singular proper nouns ending in "s", and just as apostrophe for plural proper nouns ending in "s".
Athens's tourist attractions (singular proper noun)
the Millers' mansion (plural proper noun)
For nouns that are plural in form, and singular in meaning, all we do is add an apostrophe.
the billiards' table
Add an apostrophe -s for nouns ending in an unpronounced "s".
For singular common nouns ending in "s" or an "s" sound, followed by a word beginning with "s", add an apostrophe if the word ends in s; otherwise, add apostrophe-s.
for clearance’s sake
the glass’ sound
Click on the Circles to Spot the Six Possessive Nouns
In American English, the possessive case can be used with an inanimate object.
The hotel's room
Note: However, this is not the case with British English. Here, the possessive case cannot be used with an inanimate object.
The hotel room
In compound words, the apostrophe is added to the last word.
This is my brother's-in-law office. (incorrect)
This is my brother-in-law's office. (correct)
When we are talking about two nouns possessing the same entity, we add an apostrophe only to the second one.
Jennifer and Cathy's aunt
If the two nouns joined together show separate ownership, both nouns carry an apostrophe and "s".
Mom’s and Dad’s phones were switched off.
There are some expressions which are always used with possessives.
for God's sake
The possessive form is used to refer to colleges, churches, or restaurants. When it comes to shops or restaurants, we use the name or job title of the owner.
I studied at St. Stephen's.
We visited St. Jude's Church in Kensington.
We had lunch at Smiths'.
Mom is at the neurologist's.
The noun or pronoun in front of the gerund shows who or what is doing the action. This is the subject of the gerund and takes the possessive form.
The Browns celebrated Joe’s winning the match.
When there is no danger of ambiguity, we sometimes omit the apostrophe.
the 1990's or the 1990s
two B's and three C's or two Bs and three Cs