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Possessive Nouns

Formation and Usage of Possessive Nouns

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Possessive nouns are used to show ownership. In other words, possessive nouns indicate that something belongs to someone. Possessive nouns are always placed directly before noun they modify.

Examples

Jennifer's coat is beautiful!
Peter's house is on the corner of the next street.

Possessive nouns are often proper names, but can also be objects or ideas:

Examples

The book's pages are made of plastic.
The theory's application has been tested in India.

The formation of possessive nouns is sometimes confusing to students. The reason for this is that many languages commonly use 'of' for this construction. While 'of' can sometimes be used in place of possessive nouns, it is not nearly as common in English as in other languages.

Examples

The color of his shirt NOT shirt's color
The ball of his dog NOT his dog's ball

In everyday English, however, we generally use possessive nouns rather than this 'of' form.

Possessive Nouns

Possessive nouns modify other nouns to indicate possession.

Examples

Peter's motorcycle
The building's structure
etc.

Form the possessive noun by placing an apostrophe (') after the noun + s.

Peter -> Peter's motorcycle
building -> building's structure

When nouns end in 's' it can be difficult to know where to place the 's' for the possessive noun. For nouns ending in 's', or to use the possessive noun with regular plurals, place the apostrophe directly after the 's'. Do not add another 's'.

Parents -> parents' concern for their children
Computers -> computers' manufacturer

The placement of the apostrophe in a possessive pronoun indicates whether the possessive noun refers to the singular or the plural form. Notice that this construction can change the meaning from singular to plural.

Examples

The cat's favorite food is tuna. (one cat)
The cats' favorite food is tuna. (more than one cat)

Possessive Noun Checklist

  • Possessive nouns are used with proper names, objects and ideas
  • Place possessive nouns directly before the noun they modify
  • Form the possessive noun using an apostrophe before 's' in the singular
  • Form plural possessive nouns by placing an apostrophe after 's'
  • Note the placement of an apostrophe to check whether the possessive pronoun is singular or plural

Use these resources for more detailed information on other possessive forms:

Possessive Adjectives - For example, our neighborhood, his niece, etc.
Possessive Pronouns - For example, that is mine, this is hers, etc.

This general guide to possessive forms quickly compares all three types of possessive forms.

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