Possessives

Generally, a possessive is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s to a word that does not end in s, and only an apostrophe to a word that does end in s.

Add an apostrophe to a word that ends in an s sound.
for old times’ sake
for conscience’ sake
for appearance’ sake

Add an apostrophe and an s to a foreign name ending in a silent sibilant.
Descartes’s invention
Des Moines’s schools
faux pas’s

Add an apostrophe and an s to the last word of a singular compound noun.
the Governor of Maine’s
the attorney general’s

Use an of phrase to show possession when both a plural and a possessive are involved in a compound noun.
RIGHT: the decisions of the attorneys general
WRONG: the attorneys general’s decisions

Indicate common possession by making only the last item in a series possessive.
Teddy, Peggy, and Nancy’s home

Indicate individual possession by making each item in a series possessive.
Teddy’s, Peggy’s, and Nancy’s homes

The following possessives should be written as singular per Web. 11. (updated 11/21/14)
baker’s yeast
printer’s ink
writer’s cramp

The following possessive should be written as plural per Web. 11. (updated 11/21/14)
confectioners’ sugar

Consider that in some cases words are not possessive but rather descriptive. In those cases, no apostrophes are needed. See descriptive words for more detail. (added 12/3/14)

 


Possessives
Descriptive words

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