Possessive 's

Possessive 's

Do you know how to use possessive 's? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

Look at these examples to see how we use possessive 's.

Mohammed is my brother's son.
My grandpa's beard is white.
This is my grandparents' house.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Grammar test 1: Possessive 's

Read the explanation to learn more.

Grammar explanation

We can use possessive 's to talk about the relationship between people or to say who owns something. Possessive 's always comes after a noun or a name.

We often use possessive 's or s' when we talk about family and friends.

Grandma and Grandpa are my mum's parents.
Maria's best friend is Juanita.
My cousins' birthdays are both in January.

We can also use it to say that something belongs to someone.

That's Roberto's flat. He's got a flat in the city centre.
Kim's hair is very long. She's got long, black hair.
My parents' garden is beautiful. They grow a lot of flowers.

When it is one person who owns something, we usually use 's.

Our friend's car is red. She loves it.
Simon's phone is new. He bought it yesterday.
Can you see Amira's keys? She can't find them.

It is possible to use more than one possessive in a phrase.

We had lunch at my friend's father's house.

If a name or noun ends in s, we can add either ' or 's. The pronunciation can be /zɪz/ or /sɪz/.

Is that James' bag?
That's my boss's office.

If the thing belongs to more than one person, we usually add ' after the s of the plural noun.

Our friends' house is in the mountains. They moved there last year.
My grandparents' dog is called Bertie.
The twins' school is closed today.

If the plural noun is irregular and doesn't end in s, we add 's.

This is our children's school.
The women's clothes are on the second floor.
A lot of people's eyes are brown.

If something belongs to more than one person, and we give a list of names, the 's comes after the last name in the list.

Liam is Anne and Gary's son.

Remember that s at the end of a word without an apostrophe (') can make it plural, but this doesn't show possession.

I've got two brothers.
Are those your keys?

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Grammar test 2: Possessive 's

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Submitted by Sefika on Sun, 26/11/2023 - 15:17


Could you please tell me what difference there is between the following phrases?
(a) The former Barcelona coach
(b) The former Barcelona's coach
(c) Barcelona's former coach
In (b), "Barcelona" is in the possessive case. Is it grammatically incorrect to use it in the possessive case in that context? Does this make it interpreted as "former Barcelona" instead of "former coach"? If not, what is the difference between them?
In (c), does "former" mean "the coach before the present one", or could it mean "any one of the former coaches"?

Hello Sefika,

Sentences [a] and [c] are correct. Sentence [b] is incorrect. 'Former' describes the coach, not Barcelona, so the adjective 'former' is misplaced in the this sentence. In sentence [a] 'Barcelona' is functioning as an adjective modifying the noun, so the word order is acceptable.



The LearnEnglish Team

Profile picture for user hasnaa sakr

Submitted by hasnaa sakr on Fri, 20/10/2023 - 20:00


I am confused about when I'm using ('S) and when I will use (S').

when I will use 's & s'?

Hi hasnaa sakr,

Good question! I'll try to explain it. Here are two examples.

  1. This is the student's report.
  2. This is the students' report.

In 1, the report is by only one student. In 2, the report is by more than one student.

If a word has 's' as the final letter (e.g. James), you can use 1 or 2 below to show possession.

  1. This is James' report.
  2. This is James's report.

They mean the same thing.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Profile picture for user Tony_M

Submitted by Tony_M on Sun, 10/09/2023 - 23:05


Hello gentlemen,

We form the possessive <'s> only on nouns or pronouns that represent living things, celestial bodies, time, distance, or value. With everything else we use 'of'. Is it correct?

Does this sentence make sense?
- I haven't found any examples of usage 'in the focus of attention'.

Thank you.

Hi Tony_M,

The rule you described can be useful as a general guide to usage. However, in my view we can't make such definite statements, because for these rules we can find many exceptions and examples that break the rules. Here are some examples that sound natural, despite the fact that the nouns fall outside the categories you mentioned:

  • London's financial district
  • The journey's end
  • The bank's services
  • The car's acceleration

And here are examples of living things taking 'of' instead of the possessive s:

  • The works of Shakespeare
  • The return of the King
  • The role of the manager

The Cambridge Dictionary (linked) offers this explanation: "When we are talking about things that belong to us, relationships and characteristics of people, animals, countries, categories, groups or organisations made up of people, we usually use ’s". 

So, in my view it's best to see these as patterns (i.e. they are generally or "usually" true) rather than definite rules of the type "We only use X for ... / We use X for everything else".

For your second question, I would add 'of' --> I haven't found any examples of usage of 'in the focus of attention'.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Hello Jonathan, 

Thank you so much for your detailed explanation.

About my sentence, do we need 'the' before 'usage' if we add 'of'?
As far as I know, nouns with phrases or clauses after them are said to be qualified. We have 'usage' (noun), 'of' (the most common preposition for qualifying), and the actual phrase 'in the focus of attention'. 

Thank you. 

Hi Tony_M,

No problem! About the sentence, it's fine with or without "the" before "usage". The noun "usage" can be countable or uncountable. It's common for uncountable nouns to be used without "the", even when they are followed by an "of" phrase, as this may not be enough to require a definite article. Here's another similar example from the Longman Dictionary:

  • He expects widespread usage of computer technology to be commonplace before that time.

In this sentence, as in your sentence, it's also fine to say "the usage" and there is little difference in meaning.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team