English Language English Grammar: «The Possessive Case»

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English lesson: The Possessive Case / Genitive Case

The possessive case (also called the genitive case) describes the rules that govern denoting a possessor or an owner. It is essential to master the rules of the possessive case in order to avoid the common and embarrassing mistakes in writing.

Rules Governing the Formation of the Possessive Case[edit | edit source]

The most important rules governing the possessive case are outlined below.

  • Among the less common mistakes is that of forming the possessive of singular nouns. This is achieved by adding the ‘apostrophe s’, (‘s) to singular nouns as shown below:
  1. The child’s mother
  2. The employee’s cubicle

In the examples above, the ‘apostrophe s’ indicates that the mother belongs to the child and the cubicle to the employee.

  • Formation of the possessive case of any plural ending in an s. When the noun is plural and already ends in an s, to form the possessive case only the apostrophe is added after the noun.

Example: The employees’ cubicles. This shows that the cubicles belong to two or more employees.

  • For the case of nouns like ‘child’ whose plurals do not in an s, the possessive is formed by attaching the ‘apostrophe s’ after the plural noun.


  1. The children’s mother
  2. The women’s association
  • Forming the possessive case of names also vary between singular nouns and plural names.
  1. The possessive case of singular names like John, Elizabeth, etc. are formed by attaching the ‘apostrophe s’ after the name.

Example: Peter’s house The above example signifies that the house is owned by Peter.

  1. However when the name is plural and refers to perhaps an entire family, only an apostrophe is added after the plural name.

Example: The Joneses’ company This means that the company is owned by Jones or the family whose surname is Jones.

  • In order to form the possessive case of abstract nouns ending in ‘ce’ or ‘ss’, only the apostrophe is attached after the noun. These possessives however are only common in phrases like: for goodness sake and for conscience sake.
  • As for compound nouns (which are formed by joining two or more words together), the possessive case is formed by attaching the ‘apostrophe s’ at the end of the last word.

Example: Her daughter-in-law’s employer

  • Most times words are grouped together to form qualifying phrases such as: the producer of the movie, the manufacturer of the equipment, etc. In such cases, the ‘apostrophe s’ is attached only at the end of the last word in the phrase. Below is an example.

The manufacturer of the equipment’s motivation is honesty.

Summary[edit | edit source]

Formation of the possessive case causes a lot of errors when not properly understood. Therefore, concrete knowledge of the rules governing the possessive case is essential.


Vincent and NmesomtoChukwu

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