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A Closer Look at Possessive Nouns

by Tiffany


Possessive Nouns

Adam's backpack.

Possessive nouns express ownership or show a relationship.

For example, the noun "Adam" becomes a possessive noun when you add a relationship to it - "Adam's backpack".

We have expressed a relationship Adam and the backpack which belongs to him.

The Basic Rules of Possessive Nouns

Rule 1: Add an 's to make a singular noun possessive

Take a singular noun (that is, one chicken as opposed to two chickens) and add an apostrophe + the letter s at the end of the noun in order to express the relationship.

For example:

I picked up Adam's backpack off the floor.

Sarah's fish died over the weekend.

The puppy's ears were brown.

Albert Einstein's works are insightful.

Leo Tolstoy's novels are classics.

Rule 2: Add an ' to make a plural noun possessive

A plural noun describes more than one person, place or thing. Most plural nouns already end in s - to create their possessive, simply add an apostrophe.

For example:

The soldiers' uniforms were ready to be worn.

The witches' cauldron was bubbling.

The Smiths' trip was a disaster.

Please analyze these poems' meanings.


Rule 3: Add an 's to a plural noun that does not end in s
If you are using a plural noun that does not end in "s", you should add an apostrophe + the letter s in order to make it possessive.

For example:
The children's beds were all made.
These women's dresses are for sale.
This is a men's clothing store

The children's bicycle. If this bike belonged to only one child, it would be called the child's bicycle.<

Practice time! Can you change these sentences to include possessive nouns?

the sweater belonging to my mother my mother's sweater
the bicycle of the child the child's bicycle
the office of the doctor the doctor's offic
clothing of men men's clothing
the batteries of the camera the camera's batteries


Rule 4: Compound nouns

Examples of compound nouns are "father-in-law", "toothpaste", "blackboard" and "police officer". These nouns are joined together to make up one word. For compound nouns, add the 's or ' at the end of the compound noun.


Wrong

My father's-in-law's car is a Mercedes-Benz.

Right

My father-in-law's car is a Mercedes-Benz.

Wrong

The police's officer's badge was blue and white.

Right

The police officer's badge was blue and white.

"Jack and Jill's expectations were the same."

This above sentence tells us the Jack and Jill held the same set of expectations. Note that only Jill has the apostrophe+s possession. This is known as joint possession."Jack's and Jill's expectations were very different."This above sentence tells us that the expectations of Jack and Jill were different. Separate ownership of their expectations are signified by writing both Jack and Jill as possessive nouns.

Rule 5: Joint Possession.
If there is joint possession, use the possessive form for the noun closest to the ownership.


For example:

Obama and Biden's campaign was successful.

John and Yoko's wedding was held in 1969.


Special note: Adjectival Labels

An adjectival label is sometimes known as an attributive noun.

Don't confuse an adjectival label that ends in "s" as a possessive noun.

This can be very confusing - it all depends on what you are trying to say.


For example:

…Do you attend a writers' conference?

Or a writers conference?

This apostrophe can make all the difference!

Writers' conference - a conference actually belonging to the writers

Writers conference - a group of writers attending a conference


So to recap…


Rule Example
Rule 1: Add an 's to make a singular noun possessive the boy's bedroom
Rule 2: Add an ' to make a plural noun possessive the boys' bedroom
Rule 3: Add an 's to a plural noun that does not end in s the children's bedroom
Rule 4: For compound nouns, add the 's or ' at the end of the compound noun my father-in-law's car
Rule 5: For joint possession - use the possessive form for the noun closest to the ownership Jack and Jill's favourite toy

Thanks for learning about possessive nouns! Now try this quiz out to see how much you've learned!

Images Credit:rita banerji,Shanafinarbron,cod_gabriel,PageDooley,tierecke

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