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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




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,


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...



The LearnEnglish Team



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!

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:



The LearnEnglish Team

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!

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,


The LearnEnglish Team

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