Mini Lesson: Possessions

Possessions can be tricky

By Janice Seagraves

From The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need: Before using an apostrophe, make sure that a phrase actually denotes possession and is not simple a plural. For instance, in the phrase the babies’ rattles, the babies in their cribs, the babies are not possessing anything so an apostrophe is not needed.

If a regular noun doesn’t end in –s, its possessive ends in –‘s. Say what? Take a look at this sentence.

->The cars engine was running.

The word car needs an apostrophe to indicate the possession, but where?

Use this mental trick to show where to place an apostrophe: Take the word that needs to apostrophe (cars) and the word that it’s talking about (engine) and mentally turn the two words around so that the word you’re wondering about is the object of the preposition such as of.

When you change cars engine around, you come up with engine of the car. Now look at the word car. Car is the singular and doesn’t end in –s. so the original should be punctuated—‘s. You should have:

->The car’s engine was still running.

Other examples:

Shannon’s book.

The lion’s main.

A book’s pages.

When you have plural nouns that end in –s (and most do) add an aprotrophe after the final –s.

Look at this sentence:

->The girls jackets were left in the coatroom.

Now just apply the trick. Take the phrase girls jackets and turned it around so that you have jackets of (belonging to) the girls.

When you turn the phrase around this time the word girls end in –s. this lets you know that you should add an apostrophe after the –s in girls, so the sentence ends this way:

->The girls’ jackets were left in the coatroom.

Other examples:

->Five musicians’ instruments

->Twenty-four years’ work

->Ten trees’ braches

Possessives in plural form don’t always end in –s. Let’s look at some of these. These plurals are children, women, men and deer. Add –‘s to these to make it a possessive.

->the children’s coats

->the men’s scores

->the Oxen’s yokes

Then there are the names that end with an –s. With these you add –’s to make it a possessive. Unless the pronunciation of them would lead to problems as in the case of Moses, Jones and Achilles.

Or in the case of my last name, Seagraves. Too many s’s.

So here you would add a ‘ after the s.

->Janice Seagraves’ book climbed to the top of the New York best sellers list.

Any questions?