All About Possessive Nouns

A possessive noun indicates possession or ownership. Singular, plural, and multiple nouns can show possession by adding 's or an apostrophe. The object of a possessive noun always follows it. Forming possessive nouns correctly can be confusing. The rules are explained with examples below.

Plural and possessive nouns are often confused with each other. Plurals are not followed by an object. Possessives are always followed by an object. Try replacing the noun in question with a possessive adjective (my, his, her, our, their) to test the sentence. 

  • Plural: The girls played football. (No object of possession)
  • Test: Their played football. (Incorrect = Plural)
  • Possessive: The girls' team played football. (the team of the girls)
  • Test: Their team played football. (Correct = Possessive)

Possessive nouns are also confused with contractions of is and has.

  • IS Contraction: Bob's eating lunch. (Bob is, no object)
  • Possessive: Bob's lunch is in his locker. (lunch = object)
  • HAS Contraction: Bob's finished the test. (Bob has, no object)
  • Possession: Bob's test is finished. (test = object)
Adjectives may be between a possessive noun and its object.
  • Jane's beautiful new dress.
  • George's old blue suitcase
  • the Smith's small home


1. Singular nouns that don't end with the letter 'S' - Noun + 's

  • boy's hat
  • dog's collar
  • flower's petals
  • team's captain (collective noun)
  • water's edge (noncount noun)

2. Singular nouns ending with the letter 'S'  -  Noun + apostrophe.

  • Jess' lunch
  • Alexis' shoes
  • bus' door
  • gas' volume

    Plural Nouns

    1. Regular plural nouns ending with the letter 'S'  -  Noun + apostrophe.

    • boys' bedroom
    • girls' locker room
    • dogs' kennel
      2. Irregular plural nouns that do not end with the letter 'S'  -  Noun + 's
      • children's toys
      • men's clothes
      • deer's habitat

      Multiple Nouns

      1. Two or more nouns that share one possession - The last noun shows possession:

      • Tom and Jack's home
      • Sue and Mike's teacher
      • Mom and Dad's car
        2. Two or more nouns that have separate possessions - All nouns show possession:
        • Carrie's and Jill's dresses
        • Rob's and Eve's projects
        • Harry's and Jeff's computers

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