Possessives: nouns

Level: beginner

We add 's to singular nouns to show possession:

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

We add ' to plural nouns ending in -s:

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

But we use 's with irregular plural nouns:

men women children people

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

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

Is that John's car?
     No, it's Mary's. (NOT No, it's Mary's [car].)

Whose coat is this?
     It's my wife's.
 (NOT It's my wife's [coat].)

Possessives: nouns 1

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Possessives: nouns 2

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Average: 3.8 (105 votes)

Submitted by Amaltheaerev on Fri, 16/06/2023 - 10:06

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“I’m looking for a women’s sweater”. In other words, I’m looking for a sweater which is made for women. I think my sentence is correct but I can’t explain why.

Hello Amaltheaerev,

Yes, that's correct. I'm not sure what you are unsure about, but if it's the article 'a', it is correct because you're speaking about one sweater.

If you have another question about it, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

It would be "a woman's sweater" or "women's sweaters" with no article.

- we don't use indefinite articles 'a' / 'an' with plural nouns -
- nouns used as adjectives -
adjectives don't have a plural/single/gender form in English, there is no agreement rule, as there is in other languages, so when we used a noun as an adjective we don't usually use plural forms, but as always in English, there are exceptions.
- Athletics coach (rather than an athletic coach - who is in good shape)
- Sports medicine ( this field of medicine covers all sports)
- Teachers union (the union is for all teachers)
- Girls/boys hockey team (the team comprise all boys or girls)
- Nurses station (a station for all nurses)
- arts degree (a degree in the arts and social sciences - humanities vs an art degree – in fine art)
- women's clothes (clothes for all women)

Hello Mr Moore

My question is about the expressions a friend of Mary’s / one of Mary’s friends / a friend of Mary. 
Could you please tell me which one is correct and why is that so?

Thanks a lot.

Rosa

Hi Rosaesrosa,

Actually, they are all correct!

Some people say there is a slight difference between them. A friend of Mary may emphasise one direction of the friendship - from this person towards Mary. i.e., This person considers Mary to be his/her friend. This structure can also be used to show support, in the same direction (e.g. He's a friend of the hospital - means he supports the hospital in some way e.g. by donating money). 

In comparison, a friend of Mary's and one of Mary's friends emphasises the opposite direction: i.e., Mary considers this person to be a friend. However, the nuance is extremely slight, and it is not universally agreed.

Hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Liesl_W on Thu, 09/03/2023 - 13:48

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I have a question regarding the object following a plural form posessive. Do I need to use the plural for the object as well? Example, which one is correct: This also has an impact on these patients’ immune system. OR This also has an impact on these patients’ immune systems.

Hello Liesl_W,

Both are possible, depending on how far you are looking at each item as individually distinct as opposed to something which is homogeneous and common to every individual in a broadly similar way.

In your example, if you are thinking of every patient as having their own immune system which is affected in a different way (some more, some less) then the plural would be the better choice: these patients' immune systems. However, you could think of the immune system as a biological function common to everybody which is affected in broadly the same way then the singular could be used: these patients' immune system.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Babanova on Tue, 21/02/2023 - 08:06

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Hi, guys!
Can you please let me know:
when i say "it is Lucy and Clara`s car." Here i put apostrophe only with "Clara" in case both Lucy and Clara are the owners of the car, right?
But, can i say: " This car is Lucy`s and Clara"? is it correct? So, i need to put apostrophe only with a name which is closer to the noun (car), right?

Hello Babanova,

Yes, that's right: when the apostrophe goes after 'Clara', it means that the car belongs to both women. The apostrophe goes after the last person's name.

We don't put the apostrophe only with 'Lucy' (like in your second sentence); the correct way is 'This car is Lucy and Clara's.'

You might hear some people say 'This car is Lucy's and Clara's', but strictly speaking, this is not correct. When the apostrophe is used with both names, it refers to different things, e.g. 'Those cars are Lucy's and Clara's. The green one is Lucy's and the red one is Clara's.'

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

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Submitted by Pratapsingh on Sat, 22/05/2021 - 08:33

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Dear sir, Is the following sentence correct? "One of my husband Peter's most significant legacies is the modernization of this organisation." I have read that we cannot use "apostrophe s" after "one of". Please explain. Thank you
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 22/05/2021 - 14:36

In reply to by Pratapsingh

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Hello Pratapsingh,

That sentence looks correct to me. I'm afraid I can't explain the rule that you read somewhere else.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by alex117 on Sat, 03/04/2021 - 05:50

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Thanks for these wonderful materials guys..

Submitted by Westley on Tue, 26/01/2021 - 05:04

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Hey, there! I have a question, for example if I want to use the possessive for nouns that end in "ch", "sh", or "h", how would they be spelled and pronounced? For instance: Dash. Dash's car is blue?

Hello Westley,

Regarding the spelling, all are usually spelled simply by adding 's: Dash's car, Rich's brother, Soh's sister.

As for the pronunciation of words ending with an 'sh' or 'ch' sound, a short vowel sound is pronounced between the end of the noun and the 's. The word 'Rich's', for example, is pronounced exactly like 'riches'; if you follow the link, you can click to hear the pronunciation. 'Dash's' sounds like the plural of 'dash': 'dashes'.

I can't think of a word that ends with an 'h' sound in English, so I'm afraid I can't say anything about the pronunciation of such a word. If you have one in mind, please let me know.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by bakh.sh85 on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 13:51

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Hi there. I need your help to pick up the correct one please. Should i say: Students Daily Activity OR Students’ Daily Activity I am not sure even if the sequence is correct.Should I say Daily Students’ Activity
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 18/01/2021 - 15:44

In reply to by bakh.sh85

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Hello bakh.sh85,

Both the second and third ones are correct, but mean different things. I suppose the second one is the one you mean -- it refers to the daily activity of the students. (Should it be 'activities'? If you want to emphasise that they do many different things, then you could make it plural. If you just mean all their work in general, 'activity' is fine.)

The third one means the activity of the daily students.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you sir I really appreciate your helping. According to that same question, are we supposed to say ‘Student’s Daily Activities’ if there are different activities such as Reading, Quizzes, etc?

Hello bakh.sh85,

Yes, that's right.

Be careful with the apostrophe with the word 'student', however:

> student's activities = 1 student

> students' activities = more than 1 student

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jack on Tue, 29/12/2020 - 09:56

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Hello teacher ! I have an example in the book named The Alchemist: The boy could see in HIS FATHER'S (1) gaze a desire to be able, himself, to travel the world—a desire that was still alive, despite HIS FATHER'S(2) having had to bury it, over dozens of years, under the burden of struggling for water to drink, food to eat, and the same place to sleep every night of his life. There are two possessives (1),(2) : HIS FATHER'S in this paragraph, is it the same meaning and structure teacher ? Thank you !

Hello Jack,

That depends on how you classify them, but in general, yes, I'd say they're the same or at least similar. As for how they are different, in the first, the object is a noun ('gaze'), whereas in the second, the object is a phrase with a verb as its head ('having had to bury it').

I'm not sure if I've answered your question, so please let us know if you were asking about something else.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

At the begining, I cannot figure out " having had to bury" is a phrase, it's so strange, I have never seen it. This is the reason why I am confused with the possessive "his father's". Can you help me to clarify what kind of phrase is it ? Thanks .

Hello Jack,

It's possible to use a possessive form before a gerund. For example:

My friend sleeps a lot, but in spite of her sleeping she gets a lot of work done.

Your example is similar to this, but the possessive form is a noun with 's:

..a desire that was still alive, despite his father's having had to bury it, over dozens of years...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

 

 

Submitted by Ricky118 on Sat, 28/11/2020 - 11:57

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Hello! I would like to ask a question related to the following sentence. ''We managed to better understand the patterns of students’ subject choices.'' I know possessive adjectives belongs to central determiners, but are possessive nouns, like ''students''', considered to be central determiners? If not, are they belong to pre-determiner, post-determiner, or pre-modifier? Thanks a lot!
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 29/11/2020 - 08:09

In reply to by Ricky118

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Hello Ricky118,

Pre-, central and postdeterminers are descriptors based on acceptable sequencing in phrases, so it's helpful to consider the item in question in context:

'all our students' options' contains a predeterminer (all), a central determiner (our) and a postdeterminer (students'). You can see this if you try to change the order; no other order is possible.

 

I hope that clarifies it for you. Please note that our site is really aimed at language learners rather than students of linguistics and I think your question really falls into the latter category. You may find a linguistics orientated site more useful for these kinds of questions. Stack Exchange has a linguistics section which is a good place to start:

https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by HelenHelen15 on Tue, 24/11/2020 - 20:16

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Hello! Could you help me with these two sentences, please? Customers' choice or customer choice? Which one is correct here? Or both options are correct? Thank you!
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 25/11/2020 - 07:23

In reply to by HelenHelen15

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Hello HelenHelen15,

Both forms could be correct in different contexts and I'd really need to know the specific situation you want to use this in to make a good recommendation. But in general, 'customer choice' is probably better when you aren't talking about a specific group of customers, and 'customers' choice' is probably better when you do have a specific group in mind.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Mon, 26/10/2020 - 15:21

In reply to by Yolanda

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Hello Yolanda,

I would recommend 'boys' shoes', though I'm sure you could find 'boys shoes' or 'boy's shoes' if you did an internet search. 'boys's' is not correct in any situation. 

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sneixx on Wed, 09/09/2020 - 10:33

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Hi there, I want to ask a question. Is it correct to say 1. planet atmosphere or planet's atmosphere? 2. students achievement or students' achievement? 3. school responsibility or school's responsibility? Thank you
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Submitted by Peter M. on Thu, 10/09/2020 - 08:20

In reply to by sneixx

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Hello sneixx,

In the first and second examples I would say planet's and students' (i.e. with the apostrophes) are the correct options.

In the third example it is not clear. I think school's is more likely, but both are possible, depending on the speaker's intention and the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by xeesid on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 06:50

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Dear sir, As far as I know, many nouns work as an 'adjective' too. Like: It was a good education system. The word 'education' seems to work here as an adjective. Now, my question is about the following: Wednesday sunset was good. [Is this sentence incorrect?] Do we really need to add an apostrophe? Does it have to be 'Wednesday's sunset'? I wish to confirm this.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 18/08/2020 - 09:02

In reply to by xeesid

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Hello xeesid,

English is a very flexible language and words can have multiple functions. Generally, however, linguists look at forms like education system as compound nouns rather than an adjective + noun form. Compound nouns in English can be single words (keyboard, bookcase etc.), they can be hyphenated (ice-cream, president-elect etc.) or they can be two words (coffee table, forest fire etc.).

 

You can read more about compound nouns here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_compound#Compound_nouns

 

As far as Wednesday goes, you have two choices. You can use the apostrophe and this would be the most common form;

Wednesday's sunset was beautiful.

You can also use Wednesday as an adjective. In this case, you would need to use 'the':

The Wednesday sunset was beautiful.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by re_nez on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 11:09

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Hello! Do we add ‘s or ‘ to singular nouns ending in -s? e.g.: My boss’s wife. / My boss’ wife. If the latter is correct, how do I pronounce it? [s] or [siz]
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sun, 31/05/2020 - 15:10

In reply to by re_nez

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Hello re_nez

You can find both spellings out there, but the one we use at the British Council is 'boss's'. Both are pronounced the same: /'bɒ sɪz/.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Teacher Lizzy on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 04:35

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The difference between the two stores is their selection of products. is their products’ selection of the two stores I have this example and the exam tell you that the right answer is selection of products instead of using the apostrophe s ('s) possession. I don't know how to tell the difference. Could you help me, please

Hello Teacher Lizzy

That's correct: 'selection of products' is correct. The possessive 's is not normally used when the possessor is not a person, animal or group of living beings.

There are many exceptions to this rule, but 'products' is not one of them. You can see a longer explanation of this, with more examples, in the Cambridge Dictionary.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by rose on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 11:17

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hello sir, i saw in youtube and other website that it was written Charles's, Fransis's... i thought the right forms were Charles' and Fransis' repeectively. Can you please make it clear to me why is that right and me wrong?? Thank you!!

Hello rose

Since there is no single official authority regarding what is correct in English, there is some disagreement about this (and other) points of spelling and punctuation in English. Most of these points are minor and do not cause any confusion.

We have included the form we prefer, but you are welcome to use others that other reliable sources consider correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Keila_Blizzard on Thu, 27/02/2020 - 00:57

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Do I need assistance, If there's kind of an error? I put the same answer's in the Possessive nouns 1 and possessive nouns 2 but apparently don't recognized as the same answers: Excercise 3. That dog belongs to the family next door. = It's my family's' dog. Exercise 8. The party was organized by the Smith family. = It was the Smiths' party. I will appreciate the help. .

Hello Keila_Blizzard

The correct answer for 3 is "neighbours' dog" and for 8 "Smiths' party". There was an error with 8, but I've just fixed it.

By the way, after you check your answers, you can press the 'Check Answers' button to see the correct answers.

Thanks for pointing this out to us.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Moaz al halabi on Sat, 01/02/2020 - 05:05

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Hello! Can i say ''it's an ignorant's post'' as I'm referring to the guy who wrote it as an ignorant, or is it more correct to say " it's an ignorant post" as the post itself showing ignorance. thanks in advance.
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 01/02/2020 - 08:39

In reply to by Moaz al halabi

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Hello Moaz al halabi,

The word 'ignorant' is an adjective, not a noun, so only the second sentence (an ignorant post) is grammatically correct.

The word to describe a person is 'ignoramus', but it is a very rarely used word and will sound archaic to most people.

 

I should point out that the word 'ignorant' is very strong and its use is likely to cause offence or anger. Unless that is your goal then something more tactful might be more effective.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

No nothing of the kind, my friend showed me a stauts and said 'ignorant's post', so we were just discussing about whether it's correct or not. Have a good day and thanks again

Submitted by Azam on Tue, 07/01/2020 - 20:10

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Hi. I have a question. Which one is correct? Annie's and Ted's teacher Or Annie and Ted's teacher
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Wed, 08/01/2020 - 07:34

In reply to by Azam

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Hello Azam

The second one is correct.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by llin on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 02:37

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Hi, I think the "it's" at the end is incorrectly used to show possessiveness taking place of a noun. Shouldn't it be "its"? "it's" is a contraction form of "it is." Thanks, llin
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Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 05/11/2019 - 07:30

In reply to by llin

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Hi llin,

It's is correct here. The meaning is 'The coat is my wife's', but we replace 'The coat' with 'It' to avoid repetition:

Whose coat is this?

The coat is my wife's > It is my wife's > It's my wife's.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Vane0610 on Sat, 02/11/2019 - 01:53

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Hello, The party was organised by the Smith family. = It was the ___ party. In the test, the answer correct is: Smiths' my answer is: Smith's I dont'n why is that so? Best
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Submitted by Kirk Moore on Sat, 02/11/2019 - 18:42

In reply to by Vane0610

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Hello Vane0610

When we speak about a family by using their surname, for example 'Smith', we can say 'the Smith family' or, more commonly, 'the Smiths' -- notice that this is plural. This is why the correct answer is Smiths' and not Smith's in this context.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by zainab Shah on Tue, 19/02/2019 - 16:28

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correct these sentences by using possessive noun? 1) the chairs' legs are broken. 2) this is my locks' key. 3) the cap of the boy is red. 4)have you seen the nest of a bird? 5) the gardens' gate is not open. please help me to solve these sentences