EN: Charles'(s) car, James'(s) girlfriend, etc. - possessive of proper names ending in "s"


Senior Member
What's the rule for the possessive form ('s) when the name finishes in "s"?
e.g.: is it "Emmaus' work" or "Emmaus's work"?
Stupid question, I know... but I forget that kind of thing...

Moderator note: Multiple threads merged to create this one.
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  • I think that "officially" ;) there shouldn't be an s if there's already one at the end of the word, so "Charles' bike", or "Thomas' dog".

    But we say "St James's Park", for example...

    In a formal context, I'd omit the second s
    The rule is not so obvious to me :
    "For goodness' sake, Thomas's/the boss's/the waitress's/Ulysses' son is obsessed with keeping up with the Jones's."
    Shouldn't it be "the Joneses' "? (son of the Joneses/ of the Jones family))
    I heard and saw: "Chris's, Ross's "
    But really, I took 2 different books and there were saying 2 different things!
    But maybe I would put an "s".

    But I've just asked someone called James and he wouldn't put an "s". So yes, not a stupid question at all.
    Overton said:
    Ah, so it wasn't such a stupid question after all!!
    Many thanks to all of you.
    Not a stupid question at all. The apostrophe is surely the most mismanaged point of punctuation in English. Many, if not most, native speakers do not understand its use. Its on it's way... Fish and chip's... Aaaargh!
    Find, if you can, the excellent book Eats, shoots and leaves by Lynne Trusse. Funny, and instructive...
    Comment choisir entre Sir James' girlfriend et Sir James's girlfriend. Est-cer que le double s est réservé à St James's Square?
    Alors, note de cours "English translation" page 17 de mes notes d'il y 5 ans :

    Le possessif se forme en ajoutant " 's " au possesseur Ex : Maria's dog, James's cat

    Si le possesseur est pluriel et se termine par un "s", seul l'apostrophe est ajoutée.
    Ex : The simpsons' television

    Mais bon, à faire confirmer par un natif (et si c'est pas juste, mon prof d'anglais passera un sale quart d'heure :))
    Tin hat to add to Sir James' range

    Voici le titre d'un article du FT du 11 février à propos de Sir James Crosby dont la performance à la tête de HBOS a été vertement critiquée par le parlement.
    Les règles de grammaire ont-elles du plomb dans l'aile?
    On dirait :)
    Grammar : The possessive case ’s or or of

    1. Pour exprimer que quelque chose appartient à quelqu’un on utilise ’ s après le nom du possesseur. Celui-ci se trouve placé devant le nom de la chose possédée . Le possesseur doit obligatoirement être une personne ou un animal et être singulier.

    Ex : The manager’s office (le bureau du directeur) = The office belongs to the manager.
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    Certes mais il y a bien des exceptions : j'ai toujours dit Socrates' Symposium sans que cela raise le moindre eyebrow.

    C'est parce que les anglophones sont très polis :)
    Non, je pense que c'est même la forme la plus courante et de loin. C'est le cas pour un certain nombre de noms propres d'ailleurs.

    Pour le reste c'est plus une question d'habitude. Et de prononciation...
    I was always taught that either was acceptable, but no second S was preferable.

    Knowing the British education system though, I was probably taught wrongly.
    It's fairly simple for me. I add the second S because there is an additional syllable pronounced in the case of James's: james-iz.

    With something that ends in an S but doesn't add another syllable I just use the apostrophe. For example, there is no change in pronunciation when I say Archimedes' Law, so I find no reason to add an S. It's not pronounced Archimedes-iz Law, so there's no need to add an extra S to represent that -iz sound.

    I think the problem for non-natives is knowing whether an extra syllable is sounded. Why do we naturally say James-iz but not Archimedes-iz? But if you know how we pronounce the word, there's no reason to question whether to add an S after the apostrophe :)
    I remember reading in an editors' guide from the 1930s that only Jesus and Moses should be exempt of apostrophes, but I don't have the reference handy. Regardless, I don't believe that it's still the usage.
    In the case of Charles, you're safer keeping the 's:
    Some writers will say that the -s after Charles' is not necessary and that adding only the apostrophe (Charles' car) will suffice to show possession. Consistency is the key here: if you choose not to add the -s after a noun that already ends in s, do so consistently throughout your text. William Strunk's Elements of Style recommends adding the 's. (In fact, oddly enough, it's Rule Number One in Strunk's "Elementary Rules of Usage.") You will find that some nouns, especially proper nouns, especially when there are other -s and -z sounds involved, turn into clumsy beasts when you add another s: "That's old Mrs. Chambers's estate." In that case, you're better off with "Mrs. Chambers' estate."
    says an online guide to grammar and writing.
    Hello jmlem1.

    I would say "Charles' car" or "Charles' girl friend" because it is a little easier for me to say, but I wouldn't find "Charles's car" or "Charles's girl friend" strange or incorrect. As most people have said, you are free to use whichever you find easiest to say.
    There is an interesting general discussion in this thread: possessive 's. Post number 4 is even more comprehensive than Xavier11222's answer.

    There are a number of threads in English Only which can be found by searching for possessive in the English definitions in the dictionary.

    I hope these help.
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    OK, in the face of a tide of inaccuracies, I'm going to be dogmatic here.

    Charles' car, if it means anything, means "the car belonging to the Charle family".

    The correct spelling for the car belonging to Charles is Charles's car. There is no argument about this. (The exceptions are not with modern names but classical ones, e.g. Socrates' death).
    The correct pronunciation is [Charlziz ka:].

    You are perfectly free to use whichever you find easiest (we don't have an English Academy with punitive powers), but you do risk revealing yourself as illiterate.
    Hello everyone,

    I have a doubt over the following structure: do we write "Pepys' account of it is the best" or "Pepys's account of it is the best"?

    As regards BE usage, Oxford Dictionaries agrees with moustic. 'With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud'.
    But, as a search on the internet indicates, there are different views on this subject. And I'm sure you could stir up a lively debate were you to ask this question on the English-only forum :)
    Personally, I would find either form acceptable.
    Me too. That said, oddly enough I just happened upon this today (it's in U.S. English):
    Concert Review: "Pepys' Pajamas" by Pegasus Early Music
    [...]The program, "Pepys' Pajamas," was inspired by the Restoration-era diarist Samuel Pepys [...]

    I'm pretty sure I remember reading in an English book that you're supposed to add 's to names of English origin (James's, Charles's, etc.), but only an apostrophe with other names (Octavius', Socrates', etc.)

    Just one question: regardless of how you write it, do you always add an extra -iz syllabe when speaking? (for instance, /krisiz/ for Chris' / Chris's dog, or /dʒeɪmsiz/ for James' / James's dog?)
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    La prononciation la plus fréquente est en effet « Chris-iz », indépendamment de l'orthographe du possessif, mais certains anglophones disent aussi « Chris » sans « -iz ».
    Yes, that's how I pronounce them.

    Thanks, that's good to know! I assume most people pronounce these this way too. Still, would you consider the other pronounciation (/kris dog/, /dʒeɪms dog/) to be typical of another variety of English, or does it sound like nothing a native speaker could say?

    EDIT: Merci Maître Capello, c'était la question que je me posais.
    With regards to Pepys, as it is pronounced peeps, and not pep-is, I would not say peeps-iz anything and therefore would not write Pepys's but rather Pepys'. Especially not Peeps-iz pyjamas. That sounds horrible, try saying it quickly, it's easy to accidentally sound like Gollum.
    Il y a un peu de tout en ligne, mais le consensus a l'air d'être que les deux formes sont possibles.
    A noter cette règle intéressante, qui vaut ce qu'elle vaut.... :
    - Use the normal possessive ending \'s after singular words or names that end in s (boss's, James's...)
    - Use the ending s\' on plurals that end in s (bosses'...), including plural names that take a singular verb (Barclays'...)
    James itinerary :cross:

    To make a possessive form, we definitely need an apostrophe, but there are differences in opinion about whether or not to add an extra 's' after it.

    James's itinerary :tick:
    This is correct and also logical. We pronounce the possessive of "James" as Jame-ziz, with an extra syllable, so it makes sense that the written convention should reflect this.

    James' itinerary :tick:
    Some people prefer to use an apostrophe without an 's' after it, following the convention we use for plurals ( e.g. "my parents' house").

    To me, the lack of 's' after the apostrophe seems illogical, as it does not reflect the pronunciation. I would only use the apostrophe without an extra 's' for rare cases where the possessive form of a name ending in 's' is not pronounced 'ziz'. For example, if the name 'Louis' is pronounced French-style with a silent 's', or in some surnames e.g. "Mrs Chambers' house". In all other cases, it makes sense to add an apostrophe plus an 's' , just as we do with names that end with other letters e.g. Charles's, Francis's and so on.
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