Possession presents problems to plenty of people—on social media platforms, in emails, in formal proposals. Not demonic possession. Not even possessive parents or spouses. I’m talking about pesky, perplexing possessives in grammar: the proper way to show ownership.
Showing Ownership: Using Apostrophes Properly in Perplexing Possessives
Here’s the concept that will help you never again make another grammar mistake with apostrophes and possessives:
- Make words singular or plural first, and then show ownership by adding an apostrophe and an -s.
- If the word already ends in an -s, drop the –s after the apostrophe unless you pronounce that extra -s as a separate syllable.
Consider the following paragraph of correct examples, keeping in mind the above 2-part concept:
“Ebeneezer drove Chris’s car to the company party and had a great time. But on the way home, things happened. He lost the Joneses’ house keys, hit a cop’s car, and crashed into his boss’s front gate. He was lucky that the children’s bedroom was not located at the front of the house and that they were not injured.
But that was just the beginning of Ebeneezer’s trouble. An eyewitness to both his mishaps called the police. Two officers showed up immediately to question him. As they searched his car, the police officers discovered that both of his two bosses’ laptops with the company’s trade secrets had been stolen from the trunk. Officer James Potts’s investigative report contained comments from several eyewitnesses that Ebeneezer appeared to be talking on a cell phone and watching a DVD while the car was in motion.”
The Explanations for the Above Examples
—Chris’s car (Chris is singular. Then add an apostrophe and -s to show possession.)
—The Joneses’ house keys (Joneses—Jones is plural by adding -es: Joneses. Joneses means more than one person named Jones. Then to show possession, you typically add an apostrophe and an -s. But since Jonesesalready ends in the “s” you don’t pronounce this extra syllable after the apostrophe. So the rule says to drop it. The apostrophe alone shows ownership.)
—cop’s car (Cop is singular. Then add an apostrophe and –s to show possession.)
—boss’s front gate (Boss is singular. Then add an apostrophe and –s to show possession.)
—children’s bedroom (Children is plural. Then add an apostrophe and –s to show possession.)
—Ebeneezer’s trouble (Ebeneezer is singular. Then add an apostrophe and -s to show possession.)
—bosses’ laptops (Bosses is plural—two bosses. Then add an apostrophe to show possession. Since the word already ends in -s, no extra –s after the apostrophe is used because the extra syllable is not pronounced. This example is unlike boss’s front gate—where the extra syllable IS pronounced.)
—company’s trade secrets (Company’s is singular. Then add an apostrophe and –s to show possession.)
—James Potts’s (The name Potts is singular. Then add an apostrophe and –s to show possession.)
Visualize the apostrophe as the dividing line—the line that says end of the singular or plural word. Stop. Consider. What comes at the point of the apostrophe adds another twist to the meaning altogether: ownership.
Learn more ways to avoid grammar mistakes with Booher’s Rules of Business Grammar: 101 Fast and Easy Ways to Correct the Most Common Errors. Click here for more information.