Possessive - s' or s's with proper nouns - Chris' or Chris's dog?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by semiller, May 13, 2005.

  1. semiller Senior Member

    Dallas, Texas
    USA-English
    I have a grammar question. Consider the following sentence. "The dog of Chris ate the food." Alright, because this sentence sounds awkard (and it's a way of avoiding the grammatical problem I have) would it be, "Chris' dog ate the food," or "Chris's ate the food." As a young child in grade schools in the 1980's I was taught that if there was already an s, you simply inserted an apostrophe. I have seen it written with an extra s lately. Which is way the correct way now? Is there a difference between U. S. and British English here? Thanks!
     
  2. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    It's normal to say (and write) "Chris's dog" in British English.
     
  3. semiller Senior Member

    Dallas, Texas
    USA-English
    Thanks for the response. Are there any replies from fellow Americans and/or Canadians? Thanks again!
     
  4. EricB Junior Member

    Los Angeles
    US English
    I too was taught in grade school that "Chris' dog" was correct, but style manuals have changed since then, and while there may still be some holdouts in favor of "Chris' dog," I believe most sources would now say "Chris's dog."

    The rule, as I've heard it, is that the possessive of proper nouns is formed in the same way as common nouns, except for certain names where that would be awkward -- e.g., Moses, Jesus, and Xerxes.
     
  5. semiller Senior Member

    Dallas, Texas
    USA-English
    Thanks Eric! Although the style may have changed, I'm guess I'm old fashioned as I will continue to write "Chris' dog" rather than "Chris's dog." This has too much of a p c look to me.
     
  6. daviesri Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    USA English
    I'm old school and would have to go with "Chris' dog".
     
  7. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Semillar: I concur with you. (With all, in fact)

    Although I was told that both forms are gramatically correct, I was taught to write it as follows: Chris' It feels more comfortable for me. And, I will continue to do so. :p
     
  8. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Both are accepted..
    the only rule..If you are writing a paper..and choose to use Chris' dog..then continue using that one through the entire paper..

    I personally use 'Chris' dog'...take him out for walks every now and then...

    tg;)
     
  9. languageGuy Senior Member

    Kansas City, MO
    USA and English
    I was taught something in between. Proper names ending with s that have two or less sylables, add 's for the possessive. Proper names ending with s that have 3 or more sylables, add only the '.
     
  10. jacinta Senior Member

    California
    USA English
    It is odd that we were taught to write Chris' dog but we say Chris's dog. A definite mix-up there somewhere! Who are the mucky-mucks that wrote this rule?? (don't answer that! It's a rhetorical question) I was also taught to write Chris' and I still do, probably always will.
     
  11. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    For "Chris's", I absolutely go along with garry's
    But instinctively I'd write (and say) Moses', Xerxes'. Not sure if that's because of EricB's "awkwardness" factor, or languageGuy's "number of syllables" -- probably both, though I'd generally tend to do it as soon as there's more than one syllable.

    W :):)
     
  12. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Well it looks like another BE-AE classic difference doesn't it? I think that language guy was the only person who fell the other side of the respecitve Chris's Chris' (Wordsmyth I can't count you as you don't say where you're from. World is not quite specific enough). I add myself to my compatriotes with "Chris's".

    I remember when I was little asking why we had to sing that stupid song "Jesus' hands are kind hands" where you don't even pronounce it as "jesus's" and the teacher saying yes I know it's stupid but it's just the song.
     
  13. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    I favor 's after words ending in "s", but as quoted from the Chicago Manual of Style in the link below: "How to form the possessive of polysyllabic personal names ending with the sound of "s" or "z" probably occasions more dissension among writers and editors than any other orthographic matter open to disagreement." (6.30)

    "Different style manuals handle this in different ways. The Chicago Manual of Style, which is the manual for book editing, recommends that most possessives of proper names include an extra "s." It makes exceptions for Jesus, Moses, and names of more than one syllable with an unaccented ending pronouned "eez." Thus, Euripides', not Euripides's.How to form the possessive of polysllabic personal names ending with the sound of 's' or 'z'..."
    http://www2.ncsu.edu/ncsu/grammar/Apostro3.html
     
  14. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    OK Tim, I'll come clean, you can add my "Chris's" to the BE side.

    For the AE/BE thing, count me as Brit. I'm UK-born, BE mother-tongue, but moved around the world a lot. The 'World' tag is partly to do with my feelings about nationalism (not to be confused with culture :thumbsup: ), and partly to avoid the 'judge a bottle by its label' syndrome. OK, so now I've blown it :D, so maybe I'll change my header some day. {Edit: I just did - a bit!}

    W :):)
     
  15. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    First..(Mods..If you are so inclined..you may delete this post)

    Next...
    AE..BE..CE..DE..aggggggg

    Both are accepted...that has been stated..you can say Chris' or Chris's...and it does not matter where you come from..
    Why does this always have to turn into a AE vs BE..?????????
    If both are accepted..and understood..then what is the problem...

    tg;)
     
  16. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Hehe I always knew you must be one of us....:cool:;)

    Joking apart, I fully understand your reasons for going "world" but in language terms it makes such a difference (I would never have guessed how much before coming to this forum) whether you're a Brit or a Yank (sorry other nationalities) that it is definitely relevant. I thought you must be a Brit from linguistic opinions you've given in the past, which is interesting in itself given how close BE and AE are at the end of the day.:D
     
  17. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Erm te gato I don't understand your problem. It's not BE versus AE in the sense of a competition (at least not to my mind) but what's the point in pretending that there is no difference? At the end of the day, the evidence in this thread would lead us to believe that Yanks would write Chris' and Brits would write Chris's. I think that's an important point to make, if nothing else for the foreigners who might want to know the usage in the country they are in.
     
  18. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    I do apologize/apologise if it has come out sounding like I have a problem..with the different utilisation/utilization..of the Brits..Yanks usage...for I do not..
    I was just stressing a point that both ways are listed in English Grammar..be it BE or AE...and I also was taught to use both ways..for the comprehension is equil...
    Therefore it would come down to personal preference...whether you are from here..there..or everywhere..

    tg
     
  19. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    OK, both might be acceptable in each country, but thanks to the wonders of WR we all know even more than this standard information, don't we, we know which form is preferred where!!:)

    Actually, joking apart, this is an important point. To my Brit eyes the zeds in your words (zees to the Yanks;)) look horrid. I would not go as far as to say they are wrong, for they are not, but if I was a foreigner in the UK I would wish to know which form would pass without comment and which would class me as an "outsider". That was all I meant. It is personal preference, but it is important to highlight the average preference, which is usually quite definite in these cases. There are a few instances of either/or but generally language has one form or the other.

    Edit - you wrote

    "Both are accepted...that has been stated..you can say Chris' or Chris's...and it does not matter where you come from.."

    It does matter where you come from. It does not matter to us because we are all accepting language freaks, most people are not. If you use the wrong form in a certain country the natives are not going to think, oh well that's fine, they do that in New York/New zealand/the highlands etc they will just think it is wrong.

    Edit - I should point out that "freak" in my last post is in the sense of "aficionado" not in the sense of weirdo.
     
  20. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Funny thing..I do not use the zees..so I guess that your BE is a lot closer to my TGE...:D
    I am also not disputing what you have said..I was stating rules :eek:
    and I plead ignorance..I have never been where BE is strictly used..so therefore I bow to your knowledge...and wisdom...
    tg;)
     
  21. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    If you look at message number 13 (from the hermit thrush) in this thread and realize that Chicago is located in the US of A, you will see that it is not correct that Chris' is universally accepted usage in the US.
     
  22. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    I'm going to share what I've found. Please, all of you, remember that *I'm* a liberal and vote at all times for choices. The reason that the advice to add "s" on singular nouns stuck in my mind is because of my lousy spelling, not because of any knowledge.

    My personal vote: Use Chris' dog or Chris's dog. Now, only one source. Let me see if I can find another to contradict it!

    This is from American Heritage Dictionary:

    Note that although some people use just the apostrophe after singular nouns ending in s (the witness’ testimony, Burns’ poetry), the -’s is generally preferred because it more accurately reflects the modern pronunciation of these forms. However, in a few cases where the -’s is not pronounced, it is usual to add just the apostrophe: for righteousness’ (appearance’) sake.

    I'll be back if I can find more…

    Gaer
     
  23. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    Hi Tim,

    In the interest of Globish, or something...


    Regards from a language freak,
    Cuchu
     
  24. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    To all, more that I found…

    The following is from my own book, "English Usage" (MW).

    There is mixed usage with regard to indicating the genitive case of a singular noun ending in an \s\ or \z\ sound with an apostrophe plus s or an apostrophe alone. Our evidence shows that for common nouns more writers use 's than the apostrophe alone: the boss's desk, the princess's wedding are more common than the boss' desk, the princess' wedding. But when a polysyllabic s or z noun is followed by a word beginning with an s or z sound, the apostrophe alone is more frequent: for convenience' sake.

    This same basic observation can be made of proper nouns: Jones's house, Dicken's novels are more common than Jones' house, Dickens' novels. There are more exceptions with proper names, however: Jesus' time, Moses' law. Multisyllabic names and particularly those of biblical and classical origin usually take only the apostrophe: Odysseus' journey, Aristophanes' plays. Single-syllable names, however, even the classical ones, more often have 's: Zeus's anger.

    Gaer
     
  25. lainyn

    lainyn Senior Member

    Canadian English
    I ALWAYS write Chris's, because I say Chris's. I never write something I don't say. I only use the apostrophe ending if it "sounds right". I say ZED or ZEE, and never have discovered which I prefer. I also use S's or Z's in words like realis(z)e, without realising that I'm switching back and forth. I make an unconscious effort to cater to either the American or Briton I'm speaking with. (Z for Americans, S for British). Ah yes, the story of being Canadian.
     
  26. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    I also get mixed up. As I've repeated stated, I'm not a good speller, but my problem is weird. There are fairly hard words that I never miss. And both realize and realise seem fully logical too me.

    I do want to be fair and mention that this was never about what we write but rather about what is correct. And the only solid evidence I have so far is that a name like "Chris" appears more often with the "s" after the apostrophe than without it. But I don't think any of us would misread "Chris' family", and considering how often English spelling has nothing to do with pronunciation, I'm keeping an open mind. :)

    But I have an additional question: How do other PRONOUNCE: "Jesus' "?

    Jesusis? In other words, if you say "Jesus' mother", is there an additional syllable? Is this another "AY men/Ah men" thing? :)

    Gaer
     
  27. mjscott Senior Member

    Way back when Jesus was a boy and I was his friend, Jesus's backpack would knock against my lunchpail on the way to school. I was taught at that time that a singular noun that ended with an s was given an apostrophe s after it to make it posessive. If there had happened to be more than two Jesuses in history and both had sat on either side of me at our slate table waiting for McGuffy to invent the reader and Noah Webster to publish his blue-backed speller, the I would have sat between Jesuses' backpacks as I pulled out my pita, feta and olive sandwich. It was ok to pluralize the unusual name that ended in s, but once you did, you only put an apostrophe behind it to show posession.
    Examp:
    Way back when I was a kid, Jesus's backpack hit against my lunch pail as we traveled to school.
    The two Jesuses' grades were higher than mine in history.
    The Jones's have a new puppy.
    There are three Joneses' cabins in a row next to the beach.
     
  28. lotsalag New Member

    Australia
    In Australia, it's pretty common to write "Chris' dog". You rarely would see "Chris's dog". Any Australian feel free to disagree with me!
     
  29. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Well, supposedly "Jesus' " is more common, and although you made me laugh, I still don't know about the prunication of his name when used in the possessive form!!!;)

    Gaer
     
  30. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Unfortunately you can only Google by language, not by country. :(

    So the mystery goes on. :)

    Gaer
     
  31. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    Actually to some extent you can Google on a country. For example if you Google on
    you will get websites ending in .au which I believe stands for Australia. Other ending are .jp for Japan, .uk for United Kingdom. I'm not sure how well this type of search works.

    I also note that apparently searching on jesus' gives the same results as searching on jesus. I cannot find a way to get Google to distinguish the two. Maybe someone knows how to do it.
     
  32. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    Instances of the use of Chris's in Australia

    Chris's Citroën Pages. Gidday from Perth, Western Australia you are the...

    Chris's Commonwealth Railways Pages. This site is where you will find various
    bits of information about the Commonwealth Railways, Australian National ...


    melbourne.citysearch.com.au > Food & Wine
    whitepages.com.au | yellowpages.com.au | whereis.com | tradingpost.com.au ...
    With Chris's restaurant rebuilt, the villas complement his little piece of ...

    and 30, 200 more examples may be found HERE
     
  33. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    England
    English (England)
    Aparently my phrase "the evidence in this thread would lead us to believe that Yanks would write Chris' and Brits would write Chris's" has led some to believe that I was stating that every single American would prefer "Chris'" and every single Brit would prefer "Chris's".

    I apologise for the confusion. Let me set the record straight - the evidence in this thread would lead us to believe that most Yanks would write Chris' and most Brits would write Chris's. This may or may not be true in Chicago. Which is in the USA, apparently;) .
     
  34. Little One Senior Member

    England. English
    While everyone else here has argued about the Chris' and Chris's, nobody has noticed the misuse of the apostrophe in the above quote.
    The 1980s, never the 1980's. Remember it is a plural, not a possessive and there is no missing letter.
     
  35. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    I take it you mean a "possessive"? ;)

    Here's what Fowler's Modern English Usage (3rd ed., 1997) has to say on this subject:

    Though once commonly used in the plural of abbreviations and numerals (QC's, the 1960's), the apostrophe is now best omitted in such circumstances: MAs, MPs, the 1980s, the three Rs, in twos and threes. Except that it is normally used in contexts where its omission might possibly lead to confusion, e.g. dot your i's and cross your t's; there are three i's in inimical; the class of '61(= 1961).

    I bet you all wanted to know that. :)
     
  36. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Edwin, I'm having the same problems. Also, I don't know any way to make searches case sensitive.

    I'm aware that you can use different endings for Google (.au, etc.), but I'm not sure how accurate this is for English. Have you tried it?

    Gaer
     
  37. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Tim, in this case I think you're wrong. If you read through the whole thread, I believe you'll find out that most of us in the US also write "Chris's".

    I don't think this is BE-AE matter at all!

    Gaer
     
  38. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Actually, Garry, I did want to know that because it makes it clear that there has been a shift. I'm aware that the apostrophe is now normally omitted, but I did not know when it happened. :)

    G
     
  39. semiller Senior Member

    Dallas, Texas
    USA-English
    Some people have stated that they prefer "Chris's" in comparison to "Chris'" because we pronounce the extra s in speech. My challenge to this would be that we could imagine the ' as having the s sound in "Chris' ." I know that this might sound far fetched, but it does support the argument of those in favor of the traditional "Chris'" rather than "Chris's." Thanks!
     
  40. semiller Senior Member

    Dallas, Texas
    USA-English
    Very interesting! You mentioned that the apostrophe is "now" omitted.
    For about how long has this rule been commonly used? Not hing against our British brothers, but is this equally true for written U. S. English? This is the first time I have ever heard of this rule. Thanks!
     
  41. Little One Senior Member

    England. English
     
  42. Edwin

    Edwin Senior Member

    Tampa, Florida, USA
    USA / Native Language: English
    If by ''English'' you means UK, it apparently does work--in the sense that the sites pulled up under a search for, say, .uk Chris's seem to be from the UK.
     
  43. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    In reality, it hasn't. People still put the apostrophe in. It's more ubiquitous than the so-called grocer's apostrophe (carrot's, potato's, also video's, sofa's).
     
  44. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    Thanks. :rolleyes: It's one of the hazards of taking part in the forums.

    Ah, but your spelling mistake will still appear in my post as I'm the only one who can edit that. (unless some nefarious mod sneaks in;)) So there! :p
     
  45. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Garry,

    I'm a bit confused. I was only talking about a tendency for something like "1900s" replacing "1900's". But just a tendency.

    As for thinking that one is superior to the other, you should know by now that I'm always on the side of choices. The advantage I see to getting rid of the apostrophe, when the meaning is clear without it, is that it is one less key stroke when I am typing. But other than that, for me it's like "favorite/favourite", just two different ways to say the same thing. ;)

    Gaer
     
  46. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Edwin,

    You can also used advanced settings and search by country AND this allows you to search phrases:

    Results 1 - 10 of about 51 for "Chris's brother". Australia (108)
    Results 1 - 10 of about 72 for "Chris's brother". Canada (329)
    Results 1 - 10 of about 204 for "Chris's brother". UK (282 possible)
    Results 1 - 10 of about 1,820 for "Chris's brother". US (998)

    The problem here is that when you use "Chris' brother", as you've already found out, you get Chris' and Chris's and even Chris.

    But if you look at the numbers in parentheses, that is the number of hits from "Chris' brother". Not that the hits are LOWER for the second term in the US, which logically MUST be bigger, since it includes "Chris's brother" too.

    To me this suggests that a search for a word ending only with an apostrophe is giving very false results. In addition, as we've all found out, when doing a quick "usage check", the examples we get are not filtered for illiteracy.

    Very strange results, at any rate…

    Gaer
     
  47. Wordsmyth

    Wordsmyth Senior Member

    Location: Mostly SW France
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Hi Gaer,

    To google by country, I either use 'Language Tools' > 'Search pages located in ' (I guess this is what you meant by 'advanced settings'?), or open the google site for the country (from the flag icons in Language Tools).

    If you're making several searches, the latter avoids having to go via 'Language Tools' each time.

    Either method is better than typing .au or .uk in the search field, as that excludes many sites in those countries that are just .com, .org, .net, etc (without the country extension).

    For phrase searches you can also do that from the main search page, by putting the phrase in quotes.

    Maybe you knew all that already, but it might help some less advanced googlers out there.

    But now I have a question: Where did you find those hit-counts in Google? I can't see them anywhere?

    W :):)
     
  48. garryknight Senior Member

    Kent, UK
    UK, English
    Oh, ok. When I said "In reality, it hasn't. People still put the apostrophe in", what I meant was that, in spite of style recommendations having changed so that the apostrophe is now not required, most people don't know that, so they still put it in. Very few people rush out to buy the latest edition of their favourite grammar book when it comes out, do they? ;)
     
  49. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I realize that this topic has been positively exhausted, but I still want to share my two cents.

    I was taught at my American school that the 's was required after names ending with s, except for "ancient" or "Biblical" names like Jesus, Moses, Xerxes. Now, I realize that this is obviously a debatable issue (otherwise we wouldn't be on post #52 now) but I like that rule and therefore stick to it. It makes sense; just because the name ends with an s doesn't mean it has to be shafted and robbed the s it rightfully deserves in the possessive. Perhaps I'm particularly adamant about this issue because my own name is Elias, and I can't stand it when people write Elias'. It looks as though I'm being treated like an ancient historical figure or something. (Incidentally, I wonder what other people whose names actually end in s think. Should I start a poll? Hmmm...how far do we want to take this?!)

    As for the apostrophe-with-years bit, I was also taught that the plurals of numbers and letters required an apostrophe. (For example, mind your p's and q's.). While these are of course not possessives, that is not the only case that governs apostrophe usage. Apostrophes serve many other functions, the most significant of which is that of our trademark contactions (which I don't know what I'd do if we didn't have!). Furthermore, I really don't think numbers and letters should be jumbled up together; after all, there's probably a reason that "tendency" (if we choose to settle for that term) has persisted until recently, when grammarians and linguists couldn't leave good enough alone and began to question the validity of a most conventional apostrophe usage.

    In closing, I support rules over feeling - but that's just me. There are many times I find myself writing something correctly even if it doesn't "look" right. Usually I settle for rewording.

    That's all from Elias's camp.

    PS - The grocer's apostrophe is simply inexcusable!
     
  50. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    If you search by using the flags, actually going to a different version of Google, the results are different than if you simply choose a country in advanced tools. Why the results are different I don't know!

    Gaer

    PS: Results 1 - 10 of about 5,850 for "Chris' brother" (UK)

    So it totally different results. But regardless, the same problem exists. This brings up "Chris's" as well as "Chris'" and who knows what else. So the searches simply aren't valid in any way when using the apostrophe…
     

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