We have had two questions about use of the apostrophe:
Everson Mpofu in Zimbabwe asks:
distinct difference is there between the use of an apostrophe on
plurals that end with 's' like boys' toys and names that
end with 's' like Jesus's gown?
Marsden in Canada asks: When I was in school and taught
about apostrophes, one thing I remember was that nouns ending in
a double 's' simply took the apostrophe without adding another
's'. Examples: the princess' crown and the boss'
secretary. In the USA you would see princess's and boss's as
standard practice. Has it come to this in the UK?
possessive 's is used in a number of different ways to signal
any of the following:
you are using a regular plural noun ending in 's', you simply
add an apostrophe ('):
'Both boys' toys had been broken by
their elder brothers.'
'He was sentenced to ten days' prison.'
Otherwise, if the plural noun is irregular, like 'children' or 'women',
you add apostrophe s ('s), as you would for singular nouns:
'The children's party was cancelled because so many were away on holiday.'
'The child's illness was so severe that he remained in hospital for
if the singular noun ends in 's' as in your example, Everson,
you can either just add an apostrophe (') or apostrophe 's'
'All of Dickens' novels have now been adapted for television.'
of Dickens's novels have now been adapted for television.'
that these spellings are pronounced differently. If you simply add
an apostrophe, the pronunciation does not change, but if you add
apostrophe 's' ('s), the possessive is pronounced
singular nouns ending in double 's', as in your examples, Jeff,
I think it is more normal to add apostrophe 's' ('s) because the
spelling with apostrophe s then indicates the pronunciation required:
'The boss's secretary resigned.'
'The princess's diamonds were worth
two million pounds.'
In these last examples, incidentally, the plural
form would have the same pronunciation as the singular:
diamonds were worth two million pounds.' ( = more than one princess)
'The princesses' diamonds were worth two million pounds.' ( = more
than one princess)
Only the spelling or the context would indicate
how many princesses there were!
things to watch out for when using the possessive s:
If something belongs to, or is associated with, more than one person
whose names are linked by 'and', the apostrophe 's' ('s)
is placed after the second name:
'Five hundred guests were invited to John
and Sally's wedding.'
There is sometimes no need to add a following
noun, if the context clarifies what the discussion is about:
got married at St Peter's.'
'Are those Peter's golf clubs?' 'No, they're
not Peter's. They're Michael's.'
The possessive form is used in
a prepositional phrase beginning with 'of':
'Maggie, a colleague
of Mary's, came to the opening of the exhibition. Rufus came too.' 'Who's Rufus?' 'He's a friend of my husband's.'
Note that the names
of decades are usually written without apostrophes:
'In the 1970s,
house prices rose faster than in any previous decade in Britain.'