Friday, July 24, 2009

That Darn Possessive S

I'm definitely more of a descriptivist when it comes to language. I don't like the idea that there are higher forms of speaking any certain language. But there are some general rules that we all follow in our language, kind of a universal grammar that we intuitively know as native speakers or rules we learn in a second language. And especially in writing, there are forms that we use, thus why we have editors!

I'm in the process of reading Woe Is I by Patricia T. O'Conner. She gives some of the basic rules of grammar and kind of an easy way we can remember them. To me it's a pretty fascinating read. One of the things I've struggled with is that possessive S and the apostrophe!

I've got the basics down on when to use it, such as: This is Jake's book. The book belongs to Jake so we add on that apostrophe s. But what happens when a word ends in an s? My maiden name is Stokes. When I want to talk about my whole family how do I pluralize it? I learned it's Stokeses! Jones pluralized is Joneses, Sanchez is Sanchezes! No apostrophe needed. If it ends in a an s or z we just tack on another -es to make it plural.

So now we've got to decide what to do when Stokes is not plural but needs that possessive. Well, we just add on that apostrophe S. So it's the Stokes's blog, the Jones's book (think Bridget Jones's Diary), the Sanchez's dog. Now if it's plural you use just the apostrophe. So it's the Stokeses' blog, the Joneses' book, and the Sanchezes' dog.

What about the word it? When it is used as a possessive it does not carry an apostrophe. So the cat licked its foot not it's foot. The only time we use it's is when it's a contraction of it is or it has. It's been a long day or it's so nice to be home.

This has been a struggle for me and ever since I've been reading this book it's been so much clearer! I hope this has helped you as well!


  1. Hhhmmmm interesting I'll have to learn to remember how to do this. I never did like grammar class, so anything I write is AWFUL LOL!!!

  2. This actually sounds pretty good. There is also a Grammar Girl book I've been looking at, too...

  3. That does clear up names ending in S. Until you got to the part of the Joneses being plural/possessive!?! Hey how about the word "sneak". Is past tense--sneaked or snuck? I still get "lay, lie, laid" mixed up. Oh well, I just try to avoid them in writing situations.


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