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How to Use Apostrophes to Show Ownership - Showing Possession Review

Updated on December 9, 2015

Apostrophes show possession!

What does showing possession mean? The same thing as ownership. “The boy’s bat” shows possession, in that the boy owns, or at least has in his possession, a bat. Apostrophes are also used for contractions, or the combination of two words--but that's another lesson.

Example of Incorrect Apostrophe Usage

He's the best of ALL the worlds? Last time, I checked, there is only one world, so the correct usage is "world's."
He's the best of ALL the worlds? Last time, I checked, there is only one world, so the correct usage is "world's." | Source

How to show Singular Possession with -'s

For a singular noun to be possessive, add an apostrophe and then the letter “s.”

Example: The girl’s dress is too short.

We’re afraid of the dog’s bark.

In both cases, a singular noun (girl, dog) possesses or owns something (dress, bark).

Even if a singular noun already ends in -s, you can still add -'s.

Example: Mrs. Jones's car

It is also permissible to just add an apostrophe if the addition of the -'s would make the pronunciation awkward. For example, try to prounounce "Hercules's strength." Instead, you should opt for "Hercules' strength" in this case.

Plural Only--NOT Possessive!

Snow toy's what? What do they own? Snow toys are plural only--not possessive.
Snow toy's what? What do they own? Snow toys are plural only--not possessive. | Source

How to show Plural Possession with -s'

Now, let’s use those same sentences to show ownership when there is more than one “owner.”

The girls’ dresses are too short.

We’re afraid of the dogs’ barks.

In both sentences, the subjects are plural. There is more than one girl in the first sentence, so just make the noun plural first. Since that group of girls own something (dresses), now add an apostrophe to the end. The same is true with the second sentence, as there is more than one dog making all that noise.

Showing Possession wth Plural Nouns that Don't End in -s

How do you show possession if the plural of the noun does not end in -s? In this case, you will add the -‘s, as any other way wouldn’t make sense. Consider the example:

Women is already plural. We would not ever say “womens,” as in “The womens are at the church.” No, we would say, “The women are at the church.” To show possession, then, we would add -‘s to say, “The women’s husbands stayed at home.”

Exceptions: Showing Possession without Apostrophes

Possessive pronouns are the exception, as they do not require an apostrophe to show possession. By their name, we know that they are already possessive. Review the following phrases with possessive pronouns:

The dog buried its bone. ("It's" is only used as a contraction for "it is.")

The girl has her purse. It is hers.

Have you seen his truck?

The pizza is ours.

Did you think it was yours?

They thought it was theirs.

I've reviewed the basics of how to use apostrophes to show possession. Now, let's take a quiz!

Grammar Geek 2011

Quiz: Apostrophes and Possession

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    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      JamaGenee--Oh, I totally understand getting on the soapbox about grammar! No apologies necessary! :-)

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Had to come back and comment again. When I first saw the possessive apostrophe misused nearly universally these days, I chalked it up to lowered standards in the teaching of grammar. Now I suspect it has more to do with students having their cell phones on "vibrate" during class and being more interested in the latest Tweet or Facebook post than on what a teacher is trying to teach them. Ergo, if there's an "s" on the end of a word, sticking an apostrophe in front of it is easier than having to work out if the word is or isn't possessive.

      That said, there's probably no hope then for the return of the proper pronunciation of the word "to". I want to throw something at the TV every time a news anchor or an otherwise articulate, intelligent individual says "tuh" instead of "TEW" when "to" isn't the first word of a sentence.

      Okay, off the soapbox. This is still a GREAT hub!!! ;D

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Riviera Rose--I know! Using apostrophes on plural nouns are my pet peeve. People just seem to toss them everywhere. They just seem so easy to use; I don't understand the problem. I see them misused constantly--by my students, by fellow writers, on signs! Drives me nuts! Congrats on the test! :-)

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 

      5 years ago from South of France

      Thank you, thank you - I'm driven nuts by misplaced apostrophes - can it really be so hard? I can't say I had the best of educations but I know my grammar, so really appreciate the time you've taken to clarify things here. Hope lots of offenders read this - trouble is, so many people don't seem to realise they're offenders. (Got 100% in your test by the way!!!) Voted up and awesome. :)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      jainismus--I'm glad you found the information useful. Thanks for sharing, too!

    • jainismus profile image

      Mahaveer Sanglikar 

      5 years ago from Pune, India

      Useful, information, shared.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      adam--You are so welcome. I enjoy grammar and am happy to share it. I'm glad this was helpful for you.

    • adam-kash profile image

      Adam Kashmiry 

      6 years ago from Scotland

      I can't tell you, how much I appreciate this hub.. as a non- native english writer; using apostrophes to show ownership was a great deal of confusion for me.. thanks for the great grammar hubs

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      It's one of my pet peeves, too, JamaGenee! And I see it misused all the time. Oh, well. I guess I got into grammar and teaching for a reason. It's not everyone's thing. Thanks for your comments!

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      6 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      The widespread misuse of the apostrophe in a non-possessive is one of my biggest pet peeves! You did a wonderful job of explaining the differences. Anyone who doesn't understand after reading this should have to diagram sentences for at least a week. ;D

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Awesome, sweethearts! I'm glad you think so!

    • sweethearts2 profile image

      sweethearts2 

      6 years ago from Northwest Indiana

      Very useful. Always glad to refresh knowledge. Excellent presentation

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      That's great, Cutters! You're funny!

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      I am a good student this is me before I take my meds lol

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      That's right, Cutters. Your example shows that many students (at least more than one) have books in the classroom. You're a good student--haha.

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      I think I got it now. EX The students' books are in the classroom.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Kamalesh050. Glad it was helpful. Thanks for all the votes.

      Flora--Yes, the examples you mention are definitely tougher to figure out. Thanks for commenting!

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 

      6 years ago

      I've never had a problem with this punctuation, though it did take a long time to learn how to deal with a person whose name ends in S and showing possession when it is one person such as Ms. Rogers vs. Mr.and Mrs. Rogers. For some reason that took a long time.

    • Kamalesh050 profile image

      Kamalesh050 

      6 years ago from Sahaganj, Dist. Hooghly, West Bengal, India

      A very well written article, it's beautiful, helpful,useful, educative and interesting - all put together. So I voted Up and rated as Awesome.Well done.

      Best Wishes,

      Kamalesh

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Good job, ktrapp! yes--I see some people add an apostrophe anytime they see an s, even in verbs, which I didn't include. It's amazing to me. And I would think that when people put up signs for the public, they would let somebody proofread. I am the official proofreader at work--for those who will ask!

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      Yay - I got 100% like Arlene. I never knew people added apostrophes when they are writing the plural form of a word, like the "Toy's" picture in your hub.

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      It was crazy for me too! I can relate...

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Good job, Arlene! It's amazing how often apostrophes are used incorrectly on signs.

      Cutters--no, it was a typical, crazy Monday. I'll send myself an email to remind myself to watch that tomorrow.Thanks for the reminder.

    • profile image

      Arlene V. Poma 

      6 years ago

      100% for me. No problema. It bugs me when I see errors on signs. I want to get out the red Sharpie . . .

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      U get to watch the video at work?

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Aw, anytime, Cutters!

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      I understand a lot better now, it takes me some time to process things when I have taken my meds. Thanks for helping me out.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      You're welcome, Sunshine. Try it again with a fresh brain!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      6 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Ugh...I got a 50%! I'm going to try again tomorrow, my brain is working at 1/2 it's capacity! Thank you Teach for creating this hub! :)

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      To differentiate the plural subject from the singular, which goes before the s. IN some sentences, you wouldn't be able tto tell is the subject is singular or plural w/out the apostrophe. Example: the boy's books--tells you that just ONE boy owns all those books. The boys' books, however, shows you that it's more than just one boy that owns those books. The location of the apostrophe can clear up any confusion as to who (or how many) possess the object(s).

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      You did a a great job explaining it! It is me, I do not under stand why it is needed after the s' it seems odd.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      How so, Cutters? did I not explain it well enough? If something is plural but also possesses something, just add the apostrophe at the very end after the s. Does that help?

    • Cutters profile image

      Cutters 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      I am so very confused with the Apostrophes being Plural Possession.

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