Grammar: Feeling Possessive?

Posted January 11, 2015 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Grammar Explanations, Self-Editing, Writing

I can understand how the different rules for the apostrophe “s” can get confusing. I generally find myself pausing to examine the context to ensure I’m using the correct ‘s or s’s or pronoun.

Grammar Explanations is…

…an evolving list of the structural rules and principles that determines where words are placed in phrases or sentences as well as how the language is spoken. Sometimes I run across an example that helps explain better or another “also known as”. Heck, there’s always a better way to explain it, so if it makes quicker and/or better sense, I would appreciate suggestions and comments from anyone… If I’m not clear enough in any of the below, let me know.

If the possessive is a gray area for you, bookmark this page for future reference. And consider sharing this Grammar Explanation with friends by tweeting it.

Credit to: Capital Community College Guide to Grammar & Writing
Definition: Relating to a word or a form of a word that shows that something or someone belongs to something or someone else.
Rule: Ownership or possession is usually shown by the use of an apostrophe s (‘s)

Possessives are:
Singular Possessive Rule: Use ‘s
If one parent has a car, you would write parent’s car
Rule: Show joint ownership
The Sentence(s) The Explanation
Nan and Ted’s dog. Nan and Ted own the same dog.
Rule: Show individual ownership
The Sentence(s) The Explanation
Nan’s and Ted’s dogs. Nan and Ted each own a different dog.
Rule: Show ownership with indefinite pronouns
anybody’s hats
everybody’s hats
each’s hats
Rule: The of χ Question
Thanks to E.S. Lakin’s post on A Friend of Yours?
The Sentence(s) The Explanation
A portrait of King Henry Yes, that is a picture of King Henry although it’s not a very good likeness.
A portrait of King Henry’s Yes, that picture belongs to King Henry.
Taking it into a more confusing arena…
Are you a friend of John’s? Is he a friend of yours, OR
John’s friend, OR
He’s a friend of yours.
Are you a friend of John? “Is he a friend of you” doesn’t sound quite right.
Plural Possessive Rule: There are two ways to indicate plural possession…whichever you choose, be consistent.
Option 1: Option 2:
Follow the plural word with an apostrophe and an s, ‘s Skip the extra s after the apostrophe
my parents’s car
my parents’ car
Rule: Plural words that do not end in an s are treated like singular words—add an ‘s
oxen’s yoke
women’s rights
children’s toys
Rule: Then there are the words which already end in “s” but are singular or someone’s name. Treat them as you have already been using the ‘s.
Option 1: Option 2:
Do keep in mind how the word will sound with all those esses…all snaky…
Use ‘s after everything Use (apostrophe) alone at the end of words or names already ending in “s”.
The Millers’s dog The Millers’ dog
Maris’s cat Maris’ cat
Jonas’s coffee Jonas’ coffee
the Joneses’s car the Joneses’ car
parents’s car parents’ car
Already Possessive Words Rule: Possessive pronouns which indicate a sense of belonging to something else, but the subjective and objective pronouns are not possessive at all.
Possessive Subjective Objective
my, mine
your yours
his, her, hers, its
our, ours
their, theirs
he, she, it
who, whoever
him, her, it
whom, whoever

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Photo of Kathy Davie

Kathy Davie is an editor, author, and artist with degrees in Technical Writing & Editing, Digital Media, and History from Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado.

A huge believer in knowledge being power, Kathy has an ongoing and free set of Author Tools for authors interested in self-editing with an ongoing series of posts on Word Confusions, what’s Properly Punctuated, those tricky Formatting Tips, and the sleep-inducing Grammar Explanations. There is also an online tutorial on Using Microsoft Word’s Markup Tool.

And if you get too sleepy, explore KD Did It for various writing and editing services.