What is a possessive noun?

A possessive noun is a type of noun that owns or possesses something. Almost all nouns become possessive with the addition of an apostrophe "s." Plural nouns ending in "s" only need a possessive apostrophe at the end of the word; no extra "s" after the apostrophe.

Possessive pronouns follow the same apostrophe rules.

Table of Contents

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  1. Definition
  2. Grammar rules
  3. Examples

Possessive grammar

The following English grammar rules apply to the use of possessive nouns:

Grammar rules for possessive nouns
Rule/Type Explanation Example
Rule 1: Singular Add an apostrophe "s" to the end of a singular word dad's tuxedo; mom's wedding ring
Rule 2: Plural Add an apostrophe after the "s" that makes the noun plural teachers' lounge; Smiths' house
Rule 3: Hyphenated Add an apostrophe "s" to the last word mother-in-law's bracelet; 5-year-old's toys
Rule 4: Compound Add an apostrophe "s" to the end of the word. greenhouse's window; firefly's light
Rule 5: Multiple Nouns Sharing Possession Add an apostrophe "s" to the last noun in the group Grandma and Grandpa's house; Ted and Jen's honeymoon
Rule 6: Multiple Nouns Separate Possession Add an apostrophe "s" to the end of each word Sara's and Tim's coats; Mike's and Michelle's cell phones

If a singular noun ends in "s," both apostrophe "s" or just an apostrophe are considered correct.

  • Chris’s keys
  • Chris’ keys

Irregular plural nouns follow the same rules to show possession that plural possessive nouns use if the noun ends in "s." Take the example:

babies' blankets

"Babies" is an irregular plural noun that ends in "s," so it only requires an apostrophe in its plural form.

Irregular plural nouns that do not end in "s" follow the same rules as singular possessive nouns. For example:

women's backpacks

"Women" is an irregular plural noun but does not end with "s," so the possessive form requires an apostrophe "s."

Possessive noun examples

The following sentences incorporate examples of possessive nouns:

Singular

  • Oliver grabbed the dog's leash before leaving the house.
  • Dad's car keys were locked inside the car.
  • We enjoyed spending time at the captain's table on the cruise.

Plural

  • All of the students' pencils were sharp.
  • The boys' new sleds worked perfectly.
  • All of the bushes' flowers bloomed in the spring.

Hyphenated

  • Ralph appreciated his father-in-law's help.
  • The 9-year-old's birthday party included a bounce house.
  • Sue designed the t-shirt's logo.

Compound

  • The bedroom's light was on all day.
  • With the firemen's help, the family's house was saved.
  • The bluebird's nest withstood the storm.

Sharing Possession

  • Nate and Stan's business was doing better than ever.
  • The dinner party at Wanda and Hank's house was entertaining.
  • Tom and Jerry's feud was never-ending.

Separate Possession

  • The renovations included new furniture for Erica's and Pat's bedrooms.
  • Jones' and Dr. Thornhill's books were all sold out.
  • After the storm, Eli's and Rachel's yards were filled with debris.

Learn about other English language terms like pronouns, proper nouns, and adverbs.

What you learned:

After working your way through this lesson and video, you have learned:

  • What possessive nouns are
  • Various types of possessive nouns
  • The grammar rules for using possive nous
Instructor: Malcolm M.
Malcolm has a Master's Degree in education and holds four teaching certificates. He has been a public school teacher for 27 years, including 15 years as a mathematics teacher.

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