Possessive Nouns

Believe it or not, in the English language showing the possessive form of nouns is rather straightforward. In most cases (with singular nouns) all that is needed is an apostrophe and the letter “s.’

But there are a few more rules to follow so let’s take a look.  First, the basics.

What Is A Possessive Noun?

Possessive nouns are nouns that show ownership or possession.  Normally these words would be a singular or plural noun, but in the possessive form they are used as adjectives to modify another a noun or pronoun.

  • Example:  The cat’s fur is a matted mess.

Here the word “cat’s” is a possessive noun.  It is letting you know that the noun “fur” belongs to the cat.  The cat owns the fur.

Examples of Possessive Nouns

Recognizing possessive nouns is easy because they always show an apostrophe.  Here are a few examples

  • Jennifer’s new handbag matches her shoes perfectly.
  • The gerbil’s cage needed cleaning.
  • The cars’ bumpers were locked in the traffic jam.
  • The girls’ toys were lined up neatly on the shelf.
  • The cat’s bowl is filled with cheeseburgers.
  • The dogs’ bowls are filled with hotdogs.

However, depending on if the noun is singular or possessive, you may need to add an apostrophe and the letter “s” or just an apostrophe.

Singular Possessive Nouns

Here are examples of how singular nouns take on the possessive form. It’s a simple matter of adding an apostrophe and the letter “s.”

  • Kate has a kitten.
  • It is Kate’s kitten. (Kate is the possessor of the kitten) Kentucky has coalmines.
  • They are Kentucky’s coalmines. (Kentucky is the possessor of the coalmines)

Possessives can show a family relationship, too. For example, “Michele Obama is the President’s wife.”

Names ending in the letter “s” are a little different.   You can either just add the apostrophe or you can add an apostrophe and “s.”  Adding the apostrophe and “s” is more common.

  • The party is at Charles’s house.
  • James’ wedding is next week.
  • This is Thomas’s coat.

Possessives can also refer to restaurants, stores, colleges, and churches.

  • Let’s go to Pasquale’s for lunch.
  • Is St. John’s a Catholic church?
  • Harvard’s attendance was down last year.

Nouns that identify job titles can show possession as well.

  • The doctor’s white coat was hanging in his office.
  • The salesman’s pitch was very persuasive.

To make hyphenated nouns possessive add an apostrophe + “s.”

  • My father-in-law’s hamburger recipe is the best.

When two nouns are joined but the ownership is separate each noun shows possession with an apostrophe + “s.”

  • Mary’s and Michael’s coats are red and black. (Each owns his or her own coat and they are different coats.)

If two nouns are joined and the possession is the same, the last noun get’s the apostrophe + “s.”

  • Carol and John’s new car is the latest model.

Plural Possessive Nouns

In order to make a plural noun possessive that doesn’t end in the letter “s” all you have to do is add an apostrophe and an “s.”

  • Women = women’s
  • Mice = mice’s

If the plural noun ends in an “s” it becomes possessive by adding an apostrophe at the end.

  • Cars = cars’
  • Rivers = rivers’

One thing to keep in mind is possessive nouns are all about the apostrophes.  You’ll always need one…with or without the “s.”