Possessive Nouns

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!

"Possessive Nouns" in English Grammar

What Are Possessive Nouns?

Possessive nouns are a type of noun nouns used to show possession or ownership of something by someone or something else

How to Make Possessive Nouns?

Typically, a possessive noun is formed by adding 's, which is an (an apostrophe + s) to the end of a singular noun indicating the possessor. Look at the examples:

Maria's mother turns into a vampire in this episode.

The king's castle is full of people.

Possessives with Singular Nouns Ending With 's'

When a singular noun ends in the 's' sound, we cannot add ('s) to the end of the possessive noun. Instead, we only add an apostrophe at the end of the noun to form the possessive noun. For example:

The boss' office seems untidy every time I enter it.

The witness' testimony was critical to the case.

Possessives with Plural Nouns

When forming a possessive noun with a plural noun ending in -s or -es, we typically add only an apostrophe to the end of the noun. For example:

My parents' house

here in this example, the house belongs to more than a person because the apostrophe is used after 's.'

The kids' playroom

This example refers to a playroom belonging to two or more kids.

The kid's playroom

This example refers to a playroom belonging to one kid.

Possessives with Irregular Plural Nouns

When forming a possessive noun with an irregular plural noun that does not end in -s, we typically add 's. For example:

women's clothes

Plural nouns such as 'sheep' and 'deer', which have the same form as the singular noun, take 's to form possessive nouns. Like:

The deer's horns are big and thick. → plural possessive noun

The plural form of the noun 'deer' is 'deer.'

The deer's horn is big and thick. → singular possessive noun

One deer

Compound Words

With compound nouns (hyphenated or otherwise), 's is added to the final word of the compound.

Her mother-in-law's dress

Mother-in-law is a collective noun. The 's goes at the end of the sentence.

Attorney General's duty

Joint Possessive Nouns

If two or more nouns share possession of something or someone, we add 's only to the last noun in the phrase. For example:

Jane and Paul's Children

When 's is added after each possessor, it indicates that each person owns a separate or different thing. Pay attention to the example:

Jane's and Paul's children

This is not a joint possessive noun

Possessive Nouns or Not?

Possessive nouns are typically formed using 's or simply an apostrophe ('). Be careful not to confuse this with the contracted form of the verb 'is' or 'has' attached to the subject. Take a look at the examples:

The man's car was parked in front of my house.

In this example, there is a noun after 's so the noun before the 's is considered a possessive noun.

The man's really sick.

Here the 's is followed by an adverb which makes it clear that the 's is not a possessive 's.

What Are the Uses of Possessive Nouns?

  • Possessive nouns are used to show the relationship between two people. For example:

Albert's mother is cooking us dinner.

Here, 's shows the relationship between the mother and the son.

This is Anna's father. His name is Alex.

  • Possessive nouns are used to indicate ownership or possession of something by a person or animal. Look:

I want to look at Picasso's paintings.

a bird's nest

the lion's roar

  • Possessive nouns can also be used to indicate a temporal association, often with time adverbs such as 'tomorrow,' 'yesterday,' 'today,' 'next week,' 'this year,' and so on. Look:

Today's lesson is about possessive nouns.

This structure can also be used with the preposition for : the lesson for today

This year's best movies are listed below.

He gave me a three weeks' notice before he quitted his job.

  • Possessive nouns can be used to substitute a full noun phrase and avoid repetition in a sentence. Look:

Is that Adam's house? No, it's John's. (Not "No, it's John's house.")

  • Possessive nouns can also refer to places, such as houses, shops, restaurants, churches, and colleges, using the name or job title of the owner to indicate ownership or association. Look at the examples:

I'm going to the doctor's at 5:00 this evening.

(Doctor's) means the doctor's work place.

Let's eat at The Alessandro's tonight!

Tip

While 'of' can also be used to indicate relationships and ownership, possessive nouns are generally considered the standard way of expressing possession or belonging and are used more frequently. For example:

the lion's roar = the roar of the lion

Anna's father = the father of Anna

Using Apostrophe to Show Possession

Useful Points about Possessive Nouns

Here are some key points to keep in mind when working with possessive nouns. For a more detailed lesson on this topic, please continue reading.

'S with Inanimate Nouns

Inanimate nouns are those that refer to non-living things, such as objects or concepts. Let's explore when it is appropriate to use 's with an inanimate noun.

  • We use 's when the noun refers to a group of people and collective activity.

Manchester's love of sport

We do not 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.

The weather in Manchester (Not "Manchester's weather")

Here in this example, It is better not to use 's.

Manchester's football team

Here, the people of Manchester have organized a team.

  • When naming a team, it is not necessary to use 's to form a possessive noun. For sports teams, the name of the city is typically used without ('s).

Manchester United

Here, Manchester is a location or hometown, not the people of Manchester.

Possessive Nouns vs. Noun Modifiers

Noun modifiers are used to show
1. a part of a whole
2. association
3. category/type
4. value
5. material
Possessive nouns can serve these functions as well. Take a look at some examples:

the car speakers = the speakers of the car

association

the kitchen sink = the sink of the kitchen

part of a whole

Possessive Pronouns

'Possessive pronouns' enable us to indicate possession or ownership in a sentence. They can be used in place of a full noun phrase to avoid repetition. For example:

The class is all yours.

Do not touch it. That's mine.

Possessive Determiners

'Possessive determiners' (or possessive adjectives) are my, your, his, her, its, our, their, and whose. They are used before a noun or pronoun to indicate ownership or possession.

She is his daughter.

I want my book back.

Review

'Possessives' are forms that we use to talk about possessions and relations between things and people.

Possessive determiners Possessive pronouns Possessive nouns
Singular my, your, his, her, its mine, yours, his, hers, its Adam's house
Plural our, your, their ours, yours, theirs the kids' playroom
The contraction of the term is The contraction of the term has Showing possession
Using apostrophe s as a contraction Adam's handsome. Adam's arrived. Adam's house
Non-contracted sentence Adam is handsome. Adam has arrived. the house of Adam

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