Learning Support: The Possessive Singular of Nouns

“Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s.

Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,

Charles’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 possessives hers, its, theirs, yours and ours have no apostrophe. Indefinite pronouns, however, use the 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 second is possessive.

It’s a wise dog that scratches its own fleas.”

Excerpted from: Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition. New York: Longman, 2000.

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