The Write Stuff – Blog

Oct 01 2011 Possessive Nouns With No Apostrophe
No possessive apostrophe

In last week’s blog, I looked at Possessive Apostrophes… which should only ever be used to indicate ownership (not plurals!!)

The general rule being that the apostrophe be added either before or after an “s”, depending on whether the noun is singular or plural.

That was all fairly straightforward – even with the Joneses.

But just to throw a spanner in the works, there’s a whole bunch of possessive nouns which require no apostrophe at all. The obvious ones include:

    • his
    • hers
    • theirs
    • ours

Creating a lot of confusion, however, is the possessive form of it and who.

After all, to indicate a possessive noun, you add an apostrophe and an “s” after the word – right?

The problem is “it’s is actually a contraction of it is or it has.

When using it as a possessive noun, you drop the apostrophe and apply it to the same category as his, hers, theirs, or ours.

Eg. It’s a shame it’s lost all of its nasty big teeth..!

Which in its full form would read: It is a shame it has lost all of its nasty big teeth..!

So what about who?

Well again, you don’t use a possessive apostrophe with who. When you need to use who as a possessive noun, the correct word is whose.

Eg. Whose annoying talking donkey is this? (Keep an eye out for a cantankerous green ogre hiding behind a tree.)

Who’s is yet another contraction using is or has.

Eg. Who’s got a roll of gaffa-tape to shut this damn donkey up?!!!

So the next time you’re pondering whether to add a possessive apostrophe to it or who, ask yourself it the sentence would still make sense if you added is or has after it.

If not, then get rid of it. It doesn’t belong.

See. Simple!

Posted in Copywriting Tips by 8 comments

8 Responses to “Possessive Nouns With No Apostrophe”

  • […] WHO’S vs WHOSE […]

  • […] ITS vs IT’S […]

  • Reply Adrian Brien Auto October 03, 2011at 11:34 pm

    Should the sentence above read “It’s a shame it’s lost all of it’s nasty big teeth..!”? since the teeth belong to “it”, meaning possession?

    • Reply Anna Butler October 04, 2011at 1:24 am

      There shouldn’t be an apostrophe when referring to “its big teeth” when you’re indicating possession, otherwise it would make it a contraction (eg. “it is” or “it has”). 

      It does look strange without the apostrophe – especially when you get so used to adding one to signify possession, but again, just like: hers, his, ours, yours… no apostrophe is required 🙂

  • Reply Nick Morris October 31, 2011at 5:00 pm

    Something I’ve been thinking about lately is the possessive and plural of acronyms such as SEO. It looks strange writing SEOs for some reason. Do acronyms change the rules at all?

    • Reply Anna Butler October 31, 2011at 5:12 pm

      Great question Nick and no, abbreviating to an acronym doesn’t make any difference to possessive apostrophes – eg. The RSPCA’s policy was much improved. The ANZAC’s troops were brave men and women indeed. The CEO’s lunch is on his desk. The SEO’s role is to improve your search ranking (although it might be better to write: The role of SEO is to improve your search ranking.)

      I hope that helps 🙂

  • […] The Write Stuff A Copywriting Blog exploring copywriting, marketing, SEO and all things "wordy"! Skip to content HomeCopybreak HomeCopywriting ServicesWhy Use CopybreakFAQsProfileNews & FunProfessional PartnersContact ← Dear ALP – My “Big Red” appears faulty. Possessive Nouns With No Apostrophe → […]

  • Reply 8 Reasons the English Language is Crazy February 06, 2012at 10:24 am

    […] it’s the girl’s dress or the girls’ changing room, but hers, his, ours, its or theirs are exempt. At least we call all agree that apostrophes should never be used to indicate a plural. […]

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