English grammar

Module 1, Nouns, Lesson 8:

Possessive Nouns

English grammar
Possessive comes from the same root as possession, something you own. Possessive nouns show ownership.
Don't let the rules confuse you. They are very basic.

Rule 1: add 's to words to show possession.

Dog's collar
sister's backpack
car's engine

Rule 2 - the exception: If you have added an s to a word to make it plural, (cat ⇒ cats), adding 's will sound ridiculous (cats's). In that case, add only the apostrophe.

Dogs' collars
sisters' backpacks
cars' engines
  • Plurals that don't end in s follow rule 1.
    Children's homework
    fish's bowls
    octopi's tentacles
  • If the s at the end of the word is part of the original word, follow rule 1.
    Charles's sneakers
    Bess's dresses
    bus's tires
To check a word, look in front of the apostrophe and see if the word is singular or plural. Examples: One dog|'s tail (one dog has one tail), Two dogs|' tails (two dogs have two tails).

If two people own something together, use an 's after the second person.

Joe and Mary's car is new.

If two people each own their own of something, they each get 's.

Laurie's and Megan's nails are painted the same color.

You may find certain names that end in s add just an apostrophe. That rule is somewhat old-fashioned. Names like Jesus, Moses, Achilles, Charles Dickens (historical names that end in iz or eez sounds) can have just the ' or 's.

Jesus' parables were intstructional stories. Moses' first tablets were broken.
Jesus's parables were instructional stories. Moses's first tablets were broken.

We usually pronounce the extra s, so adding 's is just as correct in modern writing.

Possessive nouns act as adjectives in sentences. They modify the nouns that follow them.

Practice What You've Learned

English grammar

Part 1

Choose whether the underlined noun should be possessive or not.
My uncle boat is docked near our home.
possessive / not possessive
Three squirrels ran around crazily in our backyard.
possessive / not possessive
I think my sister new dress is very fancy.
possessive / not possessive
My favorite snack is pistachios.
possessive / not possessive
When we visited Rome, the hotel room balcony had a great view of the ancient ruins.
possessive / not possessive
Our new television does not have Internet capability.
possessive / not possessive
After the rain, we found that the water in the planter had overflowed.
possessive / not possessive
My pet cat favorite activity is chasing squirrels.
possessive / not possessive
Leo new car is a sportscar.
possessive / not possessive
That mongoose is a scary animal.
possessive / not possessive

Part 2

Correct these sentences using possessive nouns. Click once to put the apostrophe before the s, and twice to place it after the s.
MyMy'sMys' twotwo'stwos' friendsfriend'sfriends' backpacksbackpack'sbackpacks' areare'sares' inin'sins' thethe'sthes' classroomclassroom'sclassrooms'.
TheThe'sThes' twotwo'stwos' detectivesdetective'sdetectives' notebooksnotebook'snotebooks' heldheld'shelds' thethe'sthes' cluesclue'sclues' toto'stos' solvesolve'ssolves' thethe'sthes' mysterymystery'smysterys'.
WhenWhen'sWhens' II'sIs' blewblew'sblews', thethe'sthes' threethree'sthrees' candlescandle'scandles' flamesflame'sflames' wentwent'swents' outout'souts'.
WeWe'sWes' watchedwatched'swatcheds' thethe'sthes' elephantselephant'selephants' trunkstrunk'strunks' drenchdrench'sdrenchs' thethe'sthes' zookeeperzookeeper'szookeepers'.
MyMy'sMys' friendfriend'sfriends' GusGus'sGus'Guss' uncleuncle'suncles' isis'sis' anan'sans' astronautastronaut'sastronauts'.
BeBe'sBes' carefulcareful'scarefuls', thethe'sthes' doordoor'sdoors' toto'stos' thethe'sthes' leftleft'slefts' isis'sis' thethe'sthes' mensmen'smens' roomroom'srooms'.
MyMy'sMys' computerscomputer'scomputers' memorymemory'smemorys' isis'sis' fullfull'sfulls'. II'sIs' needneed'sneeds' aa'sas' biggerbigger'sbiggers' hardhard'shards' drivedrive'sdrives'.
WhenWhen'sWhens' wewe'swes' checkedchecked'scheckeds' thethe'sthes' childrenschildren'schildrens' backpacksbackpack'sbackpacks', theythey'stheys' werewere'sweres' allall'salls' therethere'stheres'.
DennisDennis'sDennis' fatherfather'sfathers' toldtold'stolds' himhim'shims' notnot'snots' toto'stos' staystay'sstays' outout'souts' latelate'slates'.
MyMy'sMys' remoteremote'sremotes' controlscontrol'scontrols' batteriesbatterie'sbatteries' havehave'shaves' dieddied'sdieds'.