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English Grammar


Formation and use of the possessive in English.


The possessive form is used to indicate ownership.
Possessives in English are formed according to a set of rules. Here is a brief summary:

Rule Example
Singular Nouns :
(even if the meaning is plural, or if there are several words.)
Add 's after the possessor. - Tom's car
- The cat's tail.
- The children's toys
- The Queen of England's jewels
Plural Nouns Add 's after the plural 's'. - My parents' car.
- The students' rooms.
- My grandparents' house
Names/nouns ending in 's' Add 's after the last 's'.
(IF the possessive 's is pronounced)
- Denis's wife
- Gladys's job
- The boss's office.
Double Possessive Add 's after the possessor's name,
or use a possessive pronoun.
- A friend of my father's
(one of them, not the only one)
- A friend of Julie's
- A friend of
Shops and people's homes Often take the possessive. - At the hairdresser's
- At the dentist's
- At the Brown's
Time expressions We say "a month's pay" because it is equal to one month of work. - A day's pay
- Today's newspaper
- In a year's time

The possessive 's is ONLY used for living things and groups or institutions.
It is not used for inanimate nouns.

  • living things (humans and animals) :
    • John's car
    • my sister's house
    • the headmaster's office
    • the cat's milk
    • the dog's tail
    • the horse's ears
  • groups and institutions :(which suggest a group of people)
    • the government's proposal
    • the company's policy.
    • the council's recommendation

    'Of' can also be used in the above examples:
    • the company's policy
    • the policy of the company
  • BUT :
    • the door of the car (not the car's door)
    • the leg of the table (not the table's leg)
    • the roof of the house
    • (not the house's roof)

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