Possessive Nouns in English Grammar
Possessive structures have many functions like showing ownership or belonging. With the help of apostrophe 's', we can make a possessive noun. Let's start!
Possessives are forms that we use to talk about possessions and relationships between things and people. They take different forms depending on how they are used.
The possessive determiner (or adjectives) are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose. A possessive determiner sits before a noun (or a pronoun) to show who or what owns it.
Possessive pronouns help us show possession or ownership in a sentence. We can use a possessive pronoun instead of a full noun phrase to avoid repeating words.
Possessive Nouns: Structure
A possessive noun shows ownership; it shows possession of something. It can also show a relationship between two things, or tell us that something belongs to someone or something.
Normally, we make a possessive noun by adding 's (an apostrophe +s) to a singular noun. it is added to the possessor.
Instead of saying 'the house of Adam', in English we use 's to show that the house belongs to Adam.
With plural nouns ending in -s, we should only add ' (an apostrophe) to the noun.
The house belongs to more than a person.
Look at these examples:
This example refers to a playroom owned by two or more kids.
This example refers to a playroom owned by one kid.
But with irregular plural nouns we use 's.
Possessive Nouns: Uses
Other than showing possession, another function of possessive nouns is that we can use it instead of a full noun phrase to avoid repeating words.
John's is the replacement of John's house.
's with Names of Animals
We can use 's with animals, too.
We can also use the term 'of' to show animal possessions.
The long tail of the cat .
The long tail belongs to the cat.
The possessive can express a relationship between people.
Albert's mother is cooking us dinner .
's shows the relationship between the mother and the son.
Sometimes possessive nouns refer to places. It is used to refer to shops, restaurants, churches and colleges, using the name or job title of the owner. Look at the examples:
I'm going to the doctor's at 5 : 00 this evening .
(Doctor's) means the doctor's work place, here.
Let's eat at The Alessandro's tonight !
'S refers to a place.
Sometimes, possessive nouns don't talk about possession, rather they show a kind of relationship between nouns. Look at these examples:
The Children's representative
This is a representative for children's affairs. The representative does not belong to the children.
The possessive can talk about abstract things as well.
Hyphenated or Compound Words
With compound nouns (hyphenated or otherwise), add the 's to the last word.
Her mother-in-law's dress
Mother-in-law is a collective noun. It gets 's at the end.
Attorney General's duty
The same rule is applied here.
Joined Possessive Nouns
If two or more nouns have the possession of something or somebody, we only add 's to the last word.
there is a relationship between children and both of them, but we only add 's to the last one which is Paul.
People owning Different Things
If the 's comes after the last noun in a noun phrase comprised of two or more nouns joined with the, it means that the thing is possessed by all of the possessors. But, if the 's comes after each one of the possessors, it means that each person owns a different thing.
This sentence means that Ashley and Adam share one room.
This sentence means Ashley and Adam each have their separate rooms.
's with Inanimate Nouns
Inanimate nouns are those that don't refer to living things. They're not names of people or animals. Let's see when it's correct to use 's with an inanimate noun:
- We use 's when the noun refers to a group of people and collective activity.
We don't mean Manchester, the city. We mean Manchester as a sport community, a group of sport's fan.
When we refer to the city, itself (and not the people in that city) it is recommended that we do not use 's.
We had better not to use 's.
Remember, this use of 'Manchester's' refers to the group of people in the city.
The people of Manchester have organized a team.
But, when we name a team, we don't need to use the 's. Note that for names of sports team, simply use the name of the city without the 's.
Here, the Manchester is a location or hometown, not the people of Manchester.
- We use 's when the noun refers to a time and we need to express what's associated with that period of time.
We often use a possessive form with time adverbs like, tomorrow, yesterday, today, next week, this year, etc.
This year is a time adverb.
- We use 's with time words to help us measure an amount.
We can make a time word possessive to show an amount.
This is indicating the length of time.
- We use 's to refer to parts of a whole.
The cafeteria is only one part of the whole university.
Dormitory has more than 150 rooms.
's or of?
You might come across this question: 'When should we say 'the book's cover' and when should we say 'the cover of the book'?
Nowadays we can use both 's and 'of' for demonstrating relations, relationships and possessions; for animals.
Lion's brown fur is curly .
Fur belongs to the lion.
The brown fur of lion is curly .
The fur belongs to the lion.
To indicate the relation between two things. It is common to use the term ''of'' and not 's.
The legs of the chair are made of wood .
Legs are not alive things and chair is not alive as well, so it is better not to use 's.
In the following examples these objects exist in a specific place.
What Can 'S (Apostrophe S) Mean?
When you come across 's in a sentence, do not assume it always shows possession. Look at the three examples below:
When an 's is followed by an adjective, then the 's is the contraction of 'is'.
When an 's is followed by a past participle, then the 's is the contraction of 'has'.
When an 's is followed by a noun, then the 's is used to show possession.