The possessive: Joe’s heart belongs to me.
One of the main functions of the apostrophe is to indicate the possessive.
Mastering the possessive is often a slippery proposition for many writers. Rules for using the apostrophe tend to get murky and your final choices require review before you send your writing on its way to your readers. Be mindful of these basic rules as you review your work.
Basics—singular and plural
- If the word is singular, add ’s to make the word possessive
So: Mina’s jewelry (the jewelry that belongs to Mina) was stolen from her purse.
- Add ’s, even when the word ends in ‘s
So: Amos’s book is in the kitchen.
–UPS’s trucks are brown.
- If the word is plural and ends in s, just add the apostrophe after the
So: The suspects’ car was parked on the lawn.
- If the word is plural and does not end in s, add ’s.
So: The children’s bus arrives at 8 every morning.
–The United States’ representative at the games.
Special Use—Two or more nouns and the possessive
Ask yourself, “If the item belongs to two or more people, is shared among them or is it separate?”
- Shared: Only the final noun takes the possessive.
So: My mother and father’s business is doing well.
–WMATA operates Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia’s commuter rail system.
–Peter, Ty, and Jamal’s room is upstairs.
- Separate: Each noun takes the possessive.
So: My mother’s and father’s cars are in the garage.
Zoya’s and Jason’s parents attended the school concert.
The hamster’s and the mouse’s food is in the corner of the cage
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