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 English Grammar for ESL learners 


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'. - 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 his friends, 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

The apostrophe followed by s ('s) (ex:Tom's), to denote possession, is used for living things.

  • living things (humans and animals) :
    • John's car, the cat's milk, the dog's tail (not the car's door)
  • groups and institutions :
    • The government's proposal, the company's policy.
  • BUT :
    • the door of the car
    • the leg of the table.
    • the roof of the house.

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Please note that British English spelling is used on this website.

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