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Forming the Possessive

In English, we use the possessive form for individuals, groups, countries, and animals. It depicts a relationship of belonging between two things. To make the possessive, combine the noun with an apostrophe and the letter ‘s’. If the word is plural or already ends in s, just insert an apostrophe after the ‘s’.


  • The hat of Joe = Joe’s hat 
  • The music of Elvis = Elvis’ music 

Note that here, because Elvis’ name ends in ‘s’, we’ve simply put an apostrophe on the end of the name to indicate the possessive. However, it is also acceptable to add another ‘s’. As in, Elvis’s. 

Phonetically, the possessive ‘s’ is pronounced as /z/, the same as it would with the word ‘is’ or ‘has’. 

How the possessive is used

As mentioned, the possessive indicates a relationship of belonging. It’s Joe’s hat because it belongs to Joe. However, the possessive has other functions. 

It can also express where somebody goes, either to work, study or just spend time. They go there regularly enough that it’s ‘their’ place, but they don’t own it. 


  • This is where Dad goes to work = This is Dad’s office. 
  • Laura attends this school = This is Laura’s school. 

The possessive can be used to express a relationship between people but it doesn’t imply ownership as with objects or places. 


  • Sean’s sister is a writer. 
  • Katy’s boyfriend can’t make it this evening.

It can also be used to express the relation of an abstract noun to a person. 


  • Don’s dedication was apparent.
  • If it weren’t for Linda’s patience there would have been a big argument.

The possessive in fixed expressions

The possessive is often used in fixed expressions. Fixed expressions are expressions that have no flexibility in word order – much like idioms. But, they’re different to idioms because they’re expressions that are not removed from their lexical meaning. 


  • A month’s pay
  • A stone’s throw away
  • In a week’s time 

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