Sunday, 6 December 2020

 Forming the possessive - English Grammar Lessons Guide

Forming the possessive - English Grammar Lessons Guide

Forming the possessive - English Grammar Lessons Guide

The possessive form is used with nouns referring to people, groups of people, countries, and animals. It shows a relationship of belonging between one thing and another. To form the possessive, add apostrophe + s to the noun. If the noun is plural, or already ends in s, just add an apostrophe after the s.


the car of John = John's car

the room of the girls = the girls' room

clothes for men = men's clothes

the boat of the sailors = the sailors' boat

For names ending in s, you can either add an apostrophe + s, or just an apostrophe. The first option is more common. When pronouncing a possessive name, we add the sound /z/ to the end of the name.


Thomas's book (or Thomas' book)

James's shop (or James' shop)

the Smiths's house (or the Smiths' house)

Functions of the possessive

'Belonging to' or 'ownership' is the most common relationship the possessive expresses.


John owns a car. = It is John's car.

America has some gold reserves. = They are America's gold reserves.

The possessive can also express where someone works, studies or spends time


John goes to this school. = This is John's school.

John sleeps in this room. = This is John's room.

The possessive can express a relationship between people.


John's mother is running late.

Mrs Brown's colleague will not be coming to the meeting.

The possessive can express intangible things as well.


John's patience is running out.

The politician's hypocrisy was deeply shocking.

Fixed expressions

There are also some fixed expressions where the possessive form is used.

Examples with time

a day's work

a month's pay

today's newspaper

in a year's time

Other examples

For God's sake! (= exclamation of exasperation)

a stone's throw away (= very near)

at death's door (= very ill)

in my mind's eye (= in my imagination)

The possessive is also used to refer to shops, restaurants, churches and colleges, using the name or job title of the owner.


Shall we go to Luigi's for lunch?

I've got an appointment at the dentist's at eleven o'clock.

Is Saint Mary's an all-girls school?

Possessive Nouns

A) Possessive singular nouns

We form possessives from singular nouns by adding an apostrophe ( ' ) and an "s" to the end of the word.

singular noun + 's = possessive form


dog = I built the dog's house.

man =  She fixed the man's phone.

student = Is that the student's book?

girl = The girl's doll is broken.

brother = My brother's bicycle is green.

Nick = Nick's daughter is 6 years old.

Jesse = Jesse's shirt is pink.

car = The car's tire is flat.

B) Possessive plural nouns

We form possessives from plural nouns in two ways.

1. For regular plural nouns that end in "s", add an apostrophe after the "s." (Do not add another "s"!)

This indicates ownership by more than one.

regular plural noun + apostrophe = possessive form

singular => cat

plural => cats

The cats' food is in the bowl.

(There's more than one cat that eats the food.)

singular => crayon

plural => crayons

I lost the crayons' box.

(There are multiple crayons in the box.)

singular => car

plural => cars

The cars' tires were flat.

(There's more than one car with flat tires.)


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