How to form possessives in English when the word ends in “S”

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Advanced English Grammar Course

When do we use bosses or boss’s? Boys or boy’s… and when to use boys’? Today you’re going to learn all about how to form possessives in English, especially when the noun already ends in “s”.

Now, this is just a little piece of English grammar. But if you’d like to learn English grammar in detail, check out my Advanced English Grammar Course.

The course covers English verb tenses, adjectives, adverbs, complex sentence structures, conditionals, and so much more. See the Advanced English Grammar Course lesson list.

Boy’s or boys’?

All right. Let’s talk about possessives. First, let’s review. If you want to talk about a bicycle that belongs to a boy, you would write, “the boy’s bicycle”. B-O-Y, apostrophe, S. “The boy’s bicycle“.

Now, what if you want to talk about two boys and their bicycles? Well, the plural of “boy” is “boys”, and to make the possessive of a plural, we just put an apostrophe after the final “s”. So we would say, “the boys’ bicycles“. B-O-Y-S, apostrophe. Okay?

Boy’s and boys’ are pronounced exactly the same. “The boy’s bicycle,” singular, and “the boys’ bicycles“, plural. But, as you can see, the position of the apostrophe is different.

Now, most nouns, when we make them plural, we add “s”. “Boy” becomes “boys”. But some nouns are different. They’re irregular. So, for example, “child”, singular, becomes “children”, plural. Okay? There’s no “s” in the plural. So in this case, for the plural, we actually do add apostrophe, “s”. So, “the child’s bicycle” and “the children’s bicycles“. Got it?

Boss’s or boss’ or bosses?

Okay, that’s the easy part. So, now what do you do if you have a noun like “boss” or “class” which already ends in “s”? How do you make the possessive? Well, it’s simple. You just follow the same rule as you would for any other noun. So, you would say, “my boss’s name“. Just add apostrophe, “s” to “boss”. “My boss’s name”. And “the class’s homework“. Got it?

What if you have multiple bosses? Maybe you have two or three people who are managing your work. Well, the plural of “boss” is “bosses”. B-O-S-S-E-S. And to make the possessive here, we follow the same rules we do for the other plural nouns, and we add an apostrophe at the end. “My bosses’ names.” That’s B-O-S-S-E-S, apostrophe.

How to form possessives of proper names ending in S

Now let’s look at the most complicated case, which is… what if you have a proper name? So, a proper name is the name of a person or a place, and it is capitalized. What if you have a proper name, so it’s singular, and it already ends in “s”? So, examples would be, “Jesus” or “Charles”.

Well, there’s some disagreement on this even among native English speakers. And, in fact, the official grammar books disagree. Some say that you should just add an apostrophe at the end, so you would write “Jesus’ words” and “Charles’ job“.

And then other books say that you should follow the same rules as any other name or any other noun, and add apostrophe, “s”. So you would write, “Jesus’s” … It’s really hard to say. “Jesus’s words“, and “Charles’s job“. Okay?

So those are two different opinions among native English speakers. And I would say that if you’re writing informally, or casually, and you come across this situation, a proper name that ends in “s”, you can write it either way, with just an apostrophe at the end, or with apostrophe, “s”.

If you’re writing something for publication, like an article that’s going to be published in a journal, or you’re writing a book or something like this, then ask the publisher of the publication, or the editor of the publication which way they prefer. Because most publications have a standard that they prefer all their writers to follow.

So, this is just a quick overview of possessives. Again, if you’d like a lot more grammar, not only you can learn it, but also use it and understand it, check out my Advanced English Grammar Course. And your homework for today is to write a sentence or two in the comments using possessives correctly as you’ve learned in this lesson. Thank you for joining me today!

Learn more: Irregular plural nouns

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