Sunday, December 6, 2009

Grammar Sunday - Possessive Singular of Nouns

Well, after weeks of not being able to find the existing copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style, I went to Barnes and Noble and got a new one! It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you the first part of the guide: ELEMENTARY RULES OF USAGE.

Ready? On to today's rule:

"1. Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding 's

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charlie's friend
Burns's poems
the witch's malice

Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names ending in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake. But such forms as Moses' Laws, Isis' temple are commonly replaced by

the laws of Moses
the temple of Isis

The pronominal possessive hers, its, theirs, yours and ours have no apostrophe to show possession.

one's rights
somebody else's umbrella

A common error is to write it's for its, or vice versa. The first is a contraction, meaning "it is". The second is a possessive.

It's a wise dog that scratches its own fleas."


  1. This is a great post! It will certainly help me improve my English (which I seriously need). I hope you will make this a weekly post. Thanks, Janna! :)


  2. I wonder if this is the time to correct the error in writing such as: "I am a friend of Tommy's".

    Since "of" already indicates the posessive, the "'s" is unnecessary.

  3. Sorry about the misplacement of the period/quotes and the misspelling of "possessive."