What is a Possessive Noun? | Definition and Examples

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What Are Possessive Nouns?

A possessive noun is a noun that denotes ownership or possession.


Kim's cat

girls' day out

Kevin's bike

the fruit's taste

Singular Possessive Nouns

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".

Nouns without possession
Nouns with possession
the tools of the carpenter
the carpenter’s tools
the food of the dog
the dog’s food
the hat of the evil witch
the evil witch’s hat
the window of the car
the car’s window
the skateboard of the kid
the kid’s skateboard
the light of the sun
the sun’s light
the house of the merchant
the merchant’s house

Plural Possessive Nouns

  • Plural nouns that end with "s" are made possessive by an apostrophe being added to the end.


    boys' toys

    students' issues

  • 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.


    women's clothes

    sheep's fleece

Special Rules for Nouns Ending with "s"

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".


    debris’s zone

  • 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


Inanimate 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

Compound Possessive Nouns

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)

Possessives with Two Nouns

  • 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.

Possessives in Idiomatic Expressions

There are some expressions which are always used with possessives.


today's newspaper

for God's sake

Possessives in Names of Places, Churches, and Universities

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.

Using Possessives before Gerunds

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.

Avoiding Possessives when There Is No Ambiguity

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

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Sample Worksheets

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