Easy Learning

Showing possession through nouns - Easy Learning Grammar

Possession can be shown in two ways:
  • The man was mending his car.
  • The car was being mended by a man.
  • by adding -’s to a singular noun, or an irregular plural noun that does not end in -s.
one dogone boyseveral children
the dog’s bones     the boy’s books     the children’s toys     
  • by adding - to a plural noun.
more than one dog     more than one boy
the dogs’ bonesthe boys’ books
There is also the of possessive (a phrase with of followed by a noun).
the side of the shipthe end of the queue
The of possessive is not just a different way of saying the same thing as the -’s possessive.
the boy’s pencilbut not the pencil of the boy     
The -’s possessive is generally used only with nouns referring to animate items (e.g. people and animals) and in time phrases.
the driver’s footthe dog’s nose
today’s newspaper     a week’s holiday
The of possessive is generally used with nouns referring to inanimate things (i.e. objects) and abstract ideas.
the leg of the tablethe arm of the sofa
the wheel of the carthe foot of the bed
the world of ideasthe power of thought
The function of the possessive form in English is to:
  • show possession.
the boy’s booksthe dog’s blanket
  • show a relationship, with a person either as the originator or the user of the thing named.
her parents’ consentthe student’s letter
a women’s clubthe children’s park
  • indicate that a place is where someone works or lives.
a grocer’sthe butcher’s
a solicitor’smy aunt’s
  • show that something is a part of a whole.
the leg of the tablethe dog’s nose
the wheel of the carthe girl’s shoulder
  • add a descriptive element which premodifies a noun. It is a type of determiner. See also Determiners.
writer’s crampA Winter’s Tale
Rules for the formation of the possessive -’s (apostrophe -s) and -s’ (-s apostrophe) are as follows:
  • most singular nouns add an apostrophe + -s.
a girl’s ringa cat’s face
  • most plural nouns add an apostrophe after the plural form -s.
the boys’ footballfive young girls’ faces
There are exceptions for the following:
  • common nouns that end in -s in the singular. When these are made plural the choice of -’s or a simple apostrophe is optional.
a cactusthe cactus’ spines
 the cactus’s habitat
  • plural nouns not ending in -s, for example those that that have a plural ending in -en. In this case, add an apostrophe + s.
children’smen’s
  • proper nouns and common nouns that end in -s. These usually add -’s in the singular unless the final sound of the basic word is [-iz], in which case, a simple apostrophe is sufficient.
Mrs Evans’s carMr Jones’s fence
Keats’s poetrythe Bates’s cat
I like Dickens’s novels 
Peter Bridges’ car 
Compound nouns (see Compound nouns) put the -’s or the simple apostrophe at the end of the complete compound.
my mother-in-law     my mother-in-law’s car
the runner-upthe runner-up’s trophy
the fire-fightersthe fire-fighters’ efforts
Noun phrases that are descriptive of someone’s role or profession put the -’s on the headword of the phrase.
  • a stock market analyst’s annual income
  • the senior hospital consultant’s weekly visit
If they use an of construction the -’s or simple apostrophe usually goes on the last noun.
  • the President of Austria’s official car
  • the director of marketing’s personal assistant

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