Language Rules

Definately Fixing Alot Of Americas Grammar 1 Word At A Thyme

My Girlfriend’s Parents’ Dogs

with 7 comments

Here’s a tricky one: In the possessive form, when do you put the apostrophe before the “s,” when do you put it after the “s,” and when do you not put it anywhere? (Okay, the third one is a trick question. You always need an apostrophe to show the possessive form.)

The apostrophe comes before the “s” if the possessor to which you are referring is singular. Thus, “my girlfriend’s parents’ dogs” refers to the two or more dogs belonging to the two or more parents of my one girlfriend. Had I said “my girlfriends’ parent’s dogs,” I would of course be referring to the two or more dogs belonging to the singular parent of my multiple girlfriends, who must in this case be sisters (sweet(!), but likely very tricky to pull off) and the daughters of a single parent.

The precise numerical status of the possession of which the possessor is in possession does not matter in the least. Put as if I were writing like a normal person speaking English more simply, the fact that the “dogs” in this case are more than one doesn’t matter. If I were referring only to one dog, “girlfriend’s” and “parents'” and their associated apostrophe positioning would stay exactly the same. To give a few more examples,

Holly’s computer refers to the one computer of Holly
Holly’s computers refers to the two or more computers of Holly
The apostrophe here stays exactly the same because Holly is still just one person.

my cat’s toy refers to the one toy belonging to my one cat
my cat’s toys refers to the two or more toys belonging to my one cat
my cats’ toy refers to the one toy that my two or more cats share
my cats’ toys refers to the two or more toys that my two or more cats share
Notice here that number of toys belonging to my cat(s) doesn’t affect where the apostrophe is placed; only the number of cats I have, whether it’s one or more than one, affects the position of the apostrophe.

If I see one more ad for “Pats Pizza” or “Shoe’s On Sale!” or “Come See Our Price’s!” I think I’m gonna hurl.

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Written by benferguson

2006 Sep 11 at 15:05

Posted in punctuation

7 Responses

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  1. […] So glad you started with posessions, nosugerfneb – I’ve been composing this post over about three extremely hectic weeks, so it’s as well that you got started.  I won’t change this, however, because it looks at the whole issue in a different light….. […]

  2. You are actually incorrect about the apostrophe being required for the possessive state, in all cases.
    If the word “it” is used to show possession, there is no apostrophe used to show the possessive state, e.g. “Its handle is broken”, whereas, if one said, “It’s ok to eat chicken with one’s fingers”, it uses an apostrophe because the statement is really saying “It is ok to eat chicken with one’s fingers”. You can test the first statement about the handle by saying “It is” instead of its, and “it is” does not make sense, therefore you have to use “Its”.

    This is due to “It” being a pronoun, in this case, from what I understand.

    Mary A. Jonikas

    2007 Feb 9 at 12:07

  3. Ah, right you are, Mary. Good call. I suppose I should have specified that you need an apostrophe only when the possessor is not a pronoun (“his,” “her,” “their,” etc. are possessive forms that don’t use apostrophes either).

    nosugrefneb

    2007 Feb 9 at 14:55

  4. What are the rules for displaying plural numbers? eg: “1000’s” or “1000s”. I’ve been trying to find the correct usage rules all evening, but have been unable to.

    Joe

    2007 Feb 18 at 23:59

  5. If it’s simply a plural number, such as referring collectively to the last decade of the 20th century, you’d use no apostrophe: 1990s. It’s a different story if it’s possessive, though, although I’ve never seen it used in the possessive form (e.g. “the 1990s’ hairstyles” versus “the hairstyles of the 1990s”).

    nosugrefneb

    2007 Feb 19 at 07:47

  6. […] succinct page explaining the apostrophe rules for those of us always having trouble. Darn English!https://languagerules.wordpress.com/2006/09/11/my-girlfriends-parents-dogs/Re: Possessive Apostrophe S – ThanksThough the rules for the use of the possessive apostrophe s are […]

  7. Possessive form without apostrophe? How about “its”?

    Tenzing Norgay

    2012 Jun 1 at 14:32


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