S’s or s’ – Use The Possessive ’S And Write Chris’ or Chris’s Dog”?

You need to use the possessive “’s” between two nouns to signal a relationship between them. It is also used to signal the possession, characteristics, physical features as well as qualities and quantitative measurement

For example, when you want to express a fact that there is a dog that belongs to Rose, you would say – “Rose’s dog”. All you need to do is simply adding the “’s” after the proper noun. However, it seems to be more complicated when you want to state that there is a dog that belongs to Chris. Many people would argue between the use of s' or s's. Should it be Chris' or Chris's dog?

There are several rules that you need to know about adding the possessive “’s” correctly. These rules are quite easy to understand and follow. However, there are other things such as whether you should use the form “s's”. It is quite a controversial topic. Take a look at this article below for all of the most important things that you need to know about the possessive “’s”.

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What is the apostrophe (’)?

There are 4 main ways in which the apostrophe is used.

  • First, you use it to show possession of the former noun to the latter noun. E.g.: The tree’s flower (Signaling that the flower belongs to the tree).
  • Second, you can show the relationship between things and people using the apostrophe (’) and the possessive (s). E.g.: My sister’s daughter.
  • Third, you use it to show the omission of a word. E.g.: I wouldn’t= I would not, hot ’n’ tasty = hot and tasty.
  • Finally, the apostrophe can be used to form a plural in two special cases. It can be added to a single letter or number to form a plural. (For example: Can you find all of the 8’s in this picture.) Other cases are not accepted.

In this article, I will only mention about using the apostrophe and the “s” to form the possessive.

These are the only cases in which it is generally considered acceptable to use an apostrophe to form plurals: remember that an apostrophe should never be used to form the plural of ordinary nouns, names, abbreviations, or numerical dates.

How to add the apostrophe (’) and the possessive (s)

1. For singular nouns

With this most simple case, you can add the apostrophe (’) after the first noun and the possessive (s) after it.

  • The girl’s clothes are very beautiful.
  • The dog’s tail is wagging excitedly.

For a singular noun ending in “s”, you also need to add both of the apostrophe (’) and the possessive (s) after the noun.

  • Many students are glad to hear that this class’s hour has been changed to a later time.
  • This canvas’s dimensions are quite small.

​2. For personal names

​For most of the personal names, you also add the apostrophe (’) and the possessive (s) like when you add them to a singular noun.

  • Mary’s daughter is 11 years old.
  • We would arrive at Pete’s party late.

​For a personal name that ends in “s” and the “s” is pronounced when you speak the whole word, you can add the apostrophe (’) and the possessive (s) like other personal names.

  • I have been to Charles’s party once.
  • I need to clean all of Mr. Jones’s shoes.

​There are a few exceptions of personal names ending in “s”. In these cases, you just need to add the apostrophe (’) after the name.

  • In case you want to mention the name of a place. E.g.: He is a regular visitor at St Thomas’ Church.
  • Most of these places or organizations have their official names; you should look it up to make sure you have the correct spell.
  • If a personal name has the ending letter “s” when it is written but not when it is spoken, you just need to add the apostrophe (’) with no possessive (s): Connors or Bridges…

3. For plural nouns

​If the plural nouns end in “s”, you need to add to the apostrophe (’) after the nouns.

  • These girls’ clothes are beautiful.
  • These dogs’ tails are wagging rapidly.
  • Many students are glad to hear that these classes’ hours have been changed to a later time.

​If the plural nouns don’t end in “s”, you need to add both of the apostrophe (’) and the possessive (s) after these nouns.

  • These children’s pictures are quite unique.
  • It is challenging to pick the most important piece of men’s clothing.

So back to our question, should you say and write “Chris’s dog” or “Chris’ dog”?

Back in the old days, “Chris’ dog” was acceptable. Now, in many style manuals that you can find in the library, you can say “Chris’s dog”. The rule of thumb is that you should add the possessive to a proper noun in the way that you would do for common nouns. When the proper noun has 1 or 2 syllables, you can add “’s” to signal the possession.

  • Exception: Other proper names such as Jesus, Xerxes, or Mosses.
  • Proper nouns that have 3 or more syllables can be added with the apostrophe only.
  • Proper nouns with an unaccented end which are pronounced as “eez” only come with the apostrophe only when they form the possessive.

​You can write in both of the ways. But make sure that you write it consistently throughout your paper. If you start with “Chris’s dog”, you should continue to write “Chris’s dog” toward the end of your paper.

As you can see, while you can easily understand standardized rules in term of forming the possessive form with the apostrophe, some rules are not clear. I hope that with the article above, you will gain more information about the possessive form. With such knowledge in mind, you would be able to use this grammatical point correctly in both of your speaking and writing.

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