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 nouns that mainly show possession or belonging.

How to Make Possessive Nouns?

Normally, we make a possessive noun by adding 's (an apostrophe + s) to a singular noun. It is added to the possessor. Look at the examples:

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

The king's castle is full of people.

Using a Singular Noun Ending With 's'

When the singular noun ends in the sound 's' we cannot add apostrophe s at the end of the possessive noun. As a result, only an apostrophe is added at the end of the noun. For example:

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

In my idea, physics' equations are hard to solve.

Using Plural Nouns

With plural nouns ending in -s, we should only add ' (an apostrophe) to 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 owned by two or more kids.

the kid's playroom

This example refers to a playroom owned by one kid.

Using Irregular Plural Nouns

With irregular plural nouns that do not have the plural s, we add 's. For example:

women's clothes

Plural nouns like 'sheep, deer, etc.' that are the same as the singular noun take 's to make 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

Hyphenated or Compound Words

With compound nouns (hyphenated or otherwise), add 's to the last word.

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

Joined Possessive Nouns

If two or more nouns have the possession of something or somebody, we only add 's to the last word. For example:

Jane and Paul's Children

If 's comes after each one of the possessors, it means that each person owns a different thing. Look:

Possessive Nouns or Not?

Possessive nouns are usually followed by 's or just apostrophe ('). Do not mix it with the contracted form of the verb is or was and the subject. Take a look:

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 after the verb 'is' there is 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 show something belongs to someone or to an animal. Look:

I want to look at Picasso's paintings.

a bird's nest

the lion's roar

  • Possessive nouns are used to show a temporal association. We often use a possessive form with time adverbs like, tomorrow, yesterday, today, next week, this year, etc. 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.

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

  • Possessive nouns are used to replace a full noun phrase to avoid repetition. Look:

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

  • 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!

Tip

We can also use of to show relationships and belongings. For example:

the lion's roar = the roar of the lion

However, possessive nouns are more standard to show belonging.

Anna's father = the father of Anna

Grammatically, it sound correct but the possessive form is more frequent.

Using Apostrophe to Show Possession

Useful Points about Possessive Nouns

Below, there are some points about possessive nouns. If you want to learn this lesson in detail, take a look:

'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.

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 we name a team, we do not need to use 's. Note that for names of the sports teams, simply use the name of the city without 's.

Manchester United

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

Possessive Nouns vs. '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'?

We can use both 's and of for demonstrating relationships or belongings. Look:

Lion's brown fur is curly. = The brown fur of the lion is curly.

Belonging

Alicia's father = father of Alicia

However, the possessive noun is more frequent.

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 have such 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' 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. For example:

The class is all yours.

Do not touch it. That's mine.

Possessive Determiners

'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 indicate who or what owns it. Check out the examples:

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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