How to Form the Possessive Case for Correct Grammar

, Staff Writer
Updated September 15, 2017
girl's sweater is green possessive grammar example
    girl's sweater is green possessive grammar example
    Kristal O'Neal / Moment / Getty Images

Many teachers are tasked with the challenge of teaching the usage of possessives grammar to students worldwide. Possessive forms in English grammar are governed by a set of rules. Learn the rules for making singular, plural, and compound possessive case in a sentence.

Forming Singular Possessive Nouns

An apostrophe is almost always used with a singular noun in order to indicate possession of an item or items by an individual. For example, use an apostrophe to indicate ownership with the following:

  • The coat of the boy = The boy's coat
  • The sweater of the girl = The girl's sweater
  • The feet of Jaime = Jaime's feet

Singular Noun Ends in S

In the event that the last name of an individual ends in the letter "s", you could still use the apostrophe "s" to indicate ownership. So, if the person's last name is Watkins then add an apostrophe and the letter "s" to show ownership - Watkins's. However, it is also correct to just use just an apostrophe in these instances - Watkins’. Check out some examples.

  • Tod Jones’s boat or Tod Jones’ boat
  • Chris’s car or Chris’ car
  • James’s keys or James’ keys

Possessive Grammar for Plurals and Irregular Plurals

For a plural possessive, you need to make a noun plural and use an apostrophe. For example, for the word girls, add an apostrophe at the end of the word "girls" - girls'. Do the same thing for possessive names ending in “s" like "Jones" (Jones') or "Hastings" (Hastings') as well.

  • The girls’ room.
  • The Jones’ jetski.
  • The Hastings’ house.
  • My parents’ house
  • The boys’ room
  • The lions’ manes
  • The gases’ odor
  • The babies’ room

For nouns with an irregular plural form like children, add an apostrophe then “s”. So, if you are talking about two women, then you would show possession by simply adding an apostrophe and the letter "s". For example:

  • I think that is the women’s bathroom.
  • We can watch the men’s league.
  • That is the children’s book.
  • The geese’s habitat is endangered.

Possessive Grammar for Compound Nouns

When it comes to possessive grammar for compound nouns, there are a few ways this is going to be handled, depending on if the compound nouns are working “together” or “separately”. For example, when you say “Michele and Isabella’s”, it means they’re together in ownership. On the other hand, if you say “Michele’s and Isabella’s”, then their ownership is separate. Let’s look at some examples.

  • Michele and Isabella’s house is new. (together own the house)
  • Ralph and Terry’s truck is in the parking lot. (together own the truck)
  • Michele’s and Isabella’s toe nails are matching colors. (separately own their toenails)
  • Ralph’s and Terry’s trucks are in the parking lot. (separately own their trucks)

No Apostrophe for Possessive Pronouns

Never use an apostrophe with plural possessive pronouns like his, hers, its, yours, or theirs. These pronouns already show possession so it is not necessary.

Possessives in Holidays

In the United States, a number of holidays use the possessive case. While many of the rules aren’t hard and fast for holiday’s, check out these examples for possessives in holidays.

Singular Examples

Here are some holidays using the singular possessive.

  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • New Year’s Day
  • Valentine’s Day
  • St. Patrick’s Day
  • April Fool’s Day
  • Season’s Greetings

Plural Possessive Examples

Now check out a few examples of plural possessive holidays.

  • All Souls’ Day
  • Parents’ Day
  • Presidents’ Day

Tips for Teaching Possessives

Teaching possessives correctly as a grammar lesson makes them easy for students to learn. The key to teaching a lesson on possessives is to clearly state the differences in usage. Explore these tips for teaching possessives.

  • Have an organized and well thought out lesson plan.
  • Set up a few objectives and goals (i.e. covering one rule a day).
  • Point out the difference between possessive form and plurals.
  • Define tricky areas like using Watkins’ vs. Watkins’s.
  • Employ activities such as games or worksheets that students would enjoy. Use popular board games like Wheel of Fortune, Bingo, and Jeopardy.

The key to teaching possessives is to make sure it is clear and fun.

Possessive Grammar Examples

Having examples for possessive grammar can be really helpful. The main thing to remember when dealing with singular possessives is you usually end up using an apostrophe and the letter "s". Plural possessives will just add an apostrophe after the “s” unless, of course, they are irregular. Names that end in “s” can get a little tricky but mostly come down to your preference.

Now that you have a handle on possessive grammar, try possessive nouns. Practice makes perfect when it comes to John’s education!