Forming English Possessive Nouns with an Apostrophe Only
In my previous discussion of apostrophes, I listed a number of instances in which both an apostrophe and an ‘s’ should be added to form the possessive case of words. In this posting, I outline situations in which the additional ‘s’ is not required for possessive forms.
An apostrophe alone should be added to form the possessive case of:
- Plural nouns that end with an ‘s,’ as in ‘the cats’ collars’ and ‘the participants’ scores.’
- Plural proper nouns/names that end with an ‘s,’ as in ‘the Taylors’ house’ and ‘the Fergussons’ business.’
- Plural acronyms and initialisms that end with an ‘s,’ as in ‘the KIs’ responses were recorded’ (with KIs standing for ‘key informants’).
- Plural dates that end with an ‘s,’ as in ‘the 1960s’ biggest concert’ and ‘the 1970s’ polyester styles.’
- Singular nouns that end with an ‘s’ sound if the additional ‘s’ would make pronunciation difficult, as in ‘the oasis’ trees.’
- Singular proper nouns/names that end with an ‘s’ sound if the additional ‘s’ would make pronunciation difficult and particularly if a name is long and not accented on one of the last two syllables, as in ‘Nicholas’ article.’
- Singular proper nouns/names of two or more syllables in which the last syllable is pronounced ‘iz’ or ‘eez,’ as in ‘Bridges’ study’ and ‘the Ganges’ bank.’
- Singular nouns and names in French ending with a silent ‘s’ to avoid an awkward or misleading appearance, as in ‘Descartes’ words’ and ‘the marquis’ inheritance.’
- Classical names ending with ‘s’ or ‘es,’ as in ‘Socrates’ words’ and ‘Dionysus’ rituals.’ For short classical names, the extra ‘s’ can be added, however (as in ‘Zeus’s influence’), and when classical names are used in scientific contexts, the ‘s’ is usually added, as it is in ‘Mars’s canals.’
- Singular nouns and names ending with an ‘s’ sound and used along with ‘sake,’ as in ‘for goodness’ sake’ and ‘for Jesus’ sake.’ In ‘for old times’ sake,’ the word ‘times’ is plural, so the apostrophe appears without an additional ‘s’ there as well.
- Names of places or organisations that take a plural form (or whose last element takes a plural form) ending with ‘s’ even though the place or organisation is singular, as in ‘the United States’ president’ and ‘the Centre for Medieval Studies’ programmes.’
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