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Possessive Apostrophe

Possessive Apostrophe

 

Alternative flash content

Requirements

Possessive - Apostrophe

 

Hello! In this lesson, we will learn how to form the possessive using nouns and names. In a previous lesson, we have learned to use the possessive pronouns to show possession. In this lesson, we will use an apostrophe and the letter "s" with a noun or name to show possession.

To show possession with a singular noun, we add "-'s" to the noun. For example, we might say "This is the man's car.", or "I see the girl's brother.". To make a name possessive, we add "-'s" to the name. For example, we might say "Mrs. Smith's car is bigger than David's car.", or "Jennifer's scarf is prettier than David's scarf.".

To show possession with a plural noun which ends in s, we simply add an apostrophe – "-' " to the end of the word. For example, we might say "These are the students' pencils.". In this case, there are more than one girl and more than one pencil. We might say "This is the Smiths' car.". In this case, we are talking about Mr. and Mrs. Smith – plural – "the Smiths", and to show that the Smiths possess the car, we say "it is the Smiths' car.".

To show possession with irregular plural forms, like "men, women," and "children", we add "-'s" to the word. For example, we would say "These are the men's cars.". In this case, there are more than one man and more than one car. Or we might say "These are the children's pencils.". In this case, there are more than one child and more than one pencil.

The simplest way of showing possession with nouns which end with "–s" or "-ss" is to just add "-'s". For example, "Jennifer is James's cousin.". However, some people prefer to leave the possessive "s" off words than end in "s". So you might also read something like "Jennifer is James' cousin." The meaning is the same.

We can ask about possession of something by using the question word "whose". For example, we can ask "Whose car is red?". "Mrs. Smith's car is red.".

Now that you have an idea of how the possessive with an apostrophe is formed, let us listen to the dialog. David and Jennifer are discussing their recent trip to the airport with the international visitors.

David:  The Smiths' car is larger than our car.

Jennifer:  Mrs. Smith's car is larger than our car.

David: Do they have two cars?

Jennifer:  Yes, Mrs. Smith's car is red. Mr. Smith's car is black.

David: Did Mrs. Smith put the visitors' luggage in her car?

Jennifer: Yes, her car's trunk was filled with luggage.

David:  Hmm… so the Smiths have two cars …

Now that we have heard the dialog, let us look more carefully at the sentences.

David begins the conversation by saying "The Smiths' car is larger than our car.". We notice that the spelling of "Smiths'" has an apostrophe after the word "Smiths". This is the common way of making possessive names. The apostrophe goes after the word which shows possession. In this case, the "Smiths"own the car, so the apostrophe follows the word "Smiths". Every possessive word or name has the "s" sound at the end.

Jennifer says "Mrs. Smith's car is larger than our car.". We notice that the spelling of "Smith's" has the apostrophe after the word "Smith." There is also an "s" after the apostrophe. This is the common way of making a possessive name. In this case, "Mrs. Smith" owns the car. So the apostrophe follows "Smith".  Every possessive noun or name has an "s" sound at the end, so we put the "s' after the apostrophe.

After David asks if the Smiths have two cars, Jennifer answers "Yes, Mrs. Smith's car is red. Mr. Smith's car is black.". We notice that the apostrophe comes after the name "Smith" in both possessives in this sentence. Then the "s" comes after the apostrophe. The apostrophe always comes after the name of the person or people who are the owners, whose names are being made possessive.  

David then asks "Did Mrs. Smith put the visitors' luggage in her car?". Is David referring to one visitor or more than one visitor? We can check by locating the apostrophe. We see that the apostrophe comes after the word "visitors". The apostrophe always comes after the name of the person or people who are the owners, whose names are being made possessive.  Since the apostrophe comes after the plural word "visitors", we know that David is referring to the plural form, -- more than one visitor. But it is important to realize that we cannot tell the difference only by listening. The two forms  -- plural possessive and singular possessive -- often sound the same – and they sound the same in this case.

Jennifer does not need to check the spelling of David's question because she knows that several visitors went in Mrs. Smith's car. David does not need to check the spelling of Jennifer statement either, since he knows that Mrs. Smith drove only one car to the airport. Jennifer says "Yes, her car's trunk was filled with luggage.". In this case, the word "car's" refers to one car. If it had referred to more than one car, Jennifer probably would have said "Yes, the cars' trunks were filled with luggage.", using the plural form of the past tense of "to be" and the plural "trunks" to refer to more than one car trunk.
David is thoughtful as he adds " Hmm, … so the Smiths have two cars.". In this case, he does not use the possessive apostrophe to show possession because he uses the verb "have".

Now that we have heard the dialog and we have learned more about the sentences in the dialog, let us listen to the dialog again. Pay attention to the singular and plural possessive forms.

David:  The Smiths' car is larger than our car.

Jennifer:  Mrs. Smith's car is larger than our car.

David: Do they have two cars?

Jennifer:  Yes, Mrs. Smith's car is red. Mr. Smith's car is black.

David: Did Mrs. Smith put the visitors' luggage in her car?

Jennifer: Yes, her car's trunk was filled with luggage.

David:  Hmm… so the Smiths have two cars …

Outstanding! Now you know how to show possession in English. Add this important skill to your English-speaking ability. Use possessives in your English conversations.