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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


Possessives: nouns 2




I have a doubt, can we say: boys’s shoes and boys’ shoes? Are both options possible or only the second one?
Many thanks,

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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

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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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.

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:


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.



The LearnEnglish Team

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]

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


The LearnEnglish Team

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


The LearnEnglish Team