We use a noun with ’s with a singular noun to show possession:

We are having a party at John’s house.
Michael drove his friend’s car.

We use s’ with a plural noun ending in -s:

This is my parents’ house.
Those are ladies’ shoes.

But we use ’s with other plural nouns:

These are men’s shoes.
Children’s clothes are very expensive.

We can use a possessive instead of a noun phrase to avoid repeating words:

 

Is that John’s car?   No, it’s Mary’s [car]. > No, it’s Mary’s.
Whose coat is this?   It’s my wife’s [coat]. > It’s my wife’s.

 

Exercise

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Comments

Hello. I have a question related to the usage of the possessive 's.
I read this example:
'The moon is Earth's satellite.'
But I know that we can't use the possessive 's with inanimate objects. So, why do we use the possessive 's in this case? Which ones are the exceptions to the rule?

Hello Daniel H,

I'm not sure where you heard that 's cannot be used with inanimate objects. It is perfectly fine to do so:

This is my house's bathroom.

I went through the university's main entrance.

The knife's edge was blunt.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Oh, I see. Well I read it just here; Mr. Kirk was replying to somebody about the usage of possessive 's:
https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/es/comment/104482#comment-104482.
He was explaining that it is correct to say 'Frogs' legs' but not 'Car's door'.
I quote:
"That's very observant of you! The difference between 'the car's door' and 'frogs' legs' is that a car is an inanimate object and frogs are animals. In other words, 's is most often used with people, animals or groups of living beings, and not with inanimate objects."
But he has also said that it is not a hard and fast rule, so I guess that is the reason why in some cases we can use the possessive 's with inanimate objects and why in some others not. I do really apreciate your help, your response clarifies it more for me.

Hello Daniel H,

Kirk's comment was about a tendency rather than a rule. Certain items tend to use an adjective form rather than 's, and so we talk about a car engine, a car door, the car boot (trunk), the car radio etc. These tend to be inanimate object, as Kirk said. Unfortunately there is no rule to describe this; it is a question of convention and typical use.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear Kirk,

Thanks so much for your detailed explanations to my previous queries.
I am not writing for a certain publication and I understand that differennt style guides give different explanations according to their respective house styles. What I want to find out is the standard usage of apostrophe according to the English grammar.

Your following sentence :
Speaking of a 'boys shirt (or 'boys' shirts') shop' is even more odd according to my experience, .........

Is it right that you wanted to write boys' shirts in the brackets ? or boys' shirt, I assume?

So, to conclude your answers to my questions in 2A, B, C, D, E, F, you would recommend
using 2E : a boys shirt shop ( the first choice ) and 2C : a boys' shirt shop ( the second choice ) and not 2D : a boys' shirts shop nor 2F : a boys shirts shop.
Is my assumption correct ?

I would appreciate your confirmation.
Thank you.

Best regards,
Melvin

Hello melvinthio,

First, a caveat. Unlike the case of some other languages (e.g. French, Spanish), there is no official organisation that determines what is standard in terms of English grammar. When I speak of a 'standard' form, what I mean is the form is in line with what is generally agreed upon in reference resources. Despite there being agreement on many points among these resources, there are some forms that are not agreed upon completely, and the case you bring up here is one of them.

With that in mind, I'm happy to clarify what I explained before, but please don't ascribe more authority to what I say than I do! What you say here:

you would recommend using 2E : a boys shirt shop ( the first choice ) and 2C : a boys' shirt shop ( the second choice ) and not 2D : a boys' shirts shop nor 2F : a boys shirts shop

is indeed how I see the matter, though please let me emphasise again that others could see it differently and be just as justified in seeing it their way.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

If we want to say that it is a habitat for tigers, should we say :
1/ It is a tiger habitat ( just like the example of "the snow leopard habitat" ).
2/ It is a tiger's habitat.
3/ It is a tigers' habitat.
4/ It is a tigers habitat.
Please help me with the correct answer(s).
Thanks

Hello melvinthio,

I see that Kirk has already answered a very similar question regarding apostrophes, and that this question was reposted a second time. Please ask questions once only. If we are able to answer - and we receive many question every day and cannot get to all of them - then it will be; repeating the question only makes the process slower.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi
Can you please explain Nominative, Accusative, and Dative?

Hello Rabail Ahmad,

Old English had a fairly developed case system, but there's so little of it left in modern English that grammars rarely speak of case when describing it. In general, though, 'nominative' case is the form a word has when it's used as a subject, 'accusative' is the form it has when it's used as an object and 'dative' is the form it has when it's used as an indirect object.

But these aren't all that useful for talking about modern English. If you'd like to learn more about cases, I'd suggest starting with the Wikipedia grammatical case page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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