Possessive - Charles' Or Charles's?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by theinquisitor, May 23, 2007.

  1. theinquisitor Member

    Galicia - Galician
    Hi everybody!

    I have a doubt about the construction of the anglosaxon genitve, when the name of the possessor ends in "-s" (but it is singular), how is it formed? Do we need to add a second "-s" after the apostroph?

    example: this is Charles' new car or this is Charles's new car

    Thanks in advance!
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    For most English names that end in "s", the possessive is formed by adding (and pronouncing) an apostrophe and another "s":

    Prince Charles's wife, Diana
    Thomas's bicycle
    Mrs. Harris's house

    The most common exception to this rule involves names taken from ancient languages:
    Moses' law
  3. theinquisitor Member

    Galicia - Galician
    Thanks GreenWhiteBlue, so you mean the Moses case is an exception? I have looked for it in many differente books on grammar, and they don't say the same... for example, I have found "Saint James' Square", or sentences such as "He is Luis' doctor", which makes me be terribly confusde about...
  4. Lazlow Senior Member

    Hessle, East Yorkshire, UK
    British English
    As far as I know, both are acceptable. I think "Charles' car" is more old-fashioned, where as adding a second 's' is more modern, perhaps in an effort to regularise things. Personally, I use the 's', but I think it's a matter of choice.

    Coincidentially, when using the first example (Charles' car), would it be pronounced as if there were a second 's' after the apostrophe?
  5. theinquisitor Member

    Galicia - Galician
    As far as I know, both cases are pronounced in the same way, it is just a matter of written form... or, at least, it is what I was taught at University...

  6. Joelline

    Joelline Senior Member

    USA (W. Pennsylvania)
    American English
    From THIS SITE:

  7. theinquisitor Member

    Galicia - Galician
    I mean, it is pronounced the same as the plural of those words finished in a sibilant sound / s, z,/... That is, for example, "house" / 'haus/ , plural form, "houses". / hausiz / This words adds -/iz/ to form the plural, it is the same sound in that cases of genitive.
  8. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    Inquisitor, here is the rule as given by William Strunk in his 1918 classic The Elements of Style:

    This is in fact an old, and not a modern usage. For example, the senior palace of the British monarch is not "St. James' Palace", but instead is called "St. James's Palace", and foreign ambassadors are still accredited to the "Court of St. James's." The square in London is in fact "St. James's Square", with the apostrophe + s on the end.
  9. mplsray Senior Member

    The traditional rule was that a word in the singular which ended in a sibilant sound would have its possessive made by adding apostrophe-s: house/house's, boss/boss's, Davis/Davis's, Charles/Charles's. This would add a syllable to the original word, with the s being pronounced as /s/ or /z/, depending upon the previous consonant. Exceptions to this, as noted elsewhere in this thread, were certain ancient names: Jesus/Jesus', Moses/Moses', Aristophanes/Aristophanes'. In these cases, the possessive form was pronounced the same as the original word.

    Things have changed, however. While many, including me, still follow the traditional rules, there is a very strong tendency, especially in newspapers, for the possessive of a singular word of more than one syllable to be made by adding simply an apostrophe to the original word, so that house and boss would still have the possessive forms house's and boss's, but Davis would have the possessive form Davis'. Some one-syllable names even form the possessive this way, including Charles, so that its possessive form would be Charles'.

    One of the reasons newspaper and editors seem to have picked this way of making possessives is that it gives the reader the opportunity of pronouncing the word he sees in writing with or without an additional syllable, depending upon how he himself forms the oral form of the possessive. Since I would say "Charlz-uhz" for the possessive form of Charles, if I see Charles' book in print, I can pronounce it "Charlz-uhz book." Someone who pronounces Charles' the same as he does Charles could see Charles' book and pronounce it "Charlz book."

    In a sense, these new rules simplify things, but there's a complication involving such one-syllable words as boss. I don't believe anyone pronounces the possessive of boss the same as he pronounces the word itself--people say "boss-uhz," not "boss" for the possessive--yet you occasionally see things written, including in edited copy, such as my boss' orders. According to the traditional rules, this is wrong, but I believe it is also wrong according to the new rules. I would be surprised to find boss' considered correct by any modern style guide. (But if anyone knows of one which permits it, please let us know.)

    So in summary: Traditionally, the possessive of Charles is Charles's, pronounced "Charlz-uhz." According to the new rules, the possessive of Charles is Charles', which can be pronounced either "Charlz" or "Charlz-uhz."
  10. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  11. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    USA English
    Chuck works for Charles and Chuck's car sounds just fine for me. It saves the wear and tear on grammar rules. If Charles it must be then whether it is Charles' car or Charles's car you have a decent chance that the listener or reader won't know the rule either.
  12. mplsray Senior Member

    Hey, you risk causing offense if the Charles in question prefers the nickname Charlie or does not care for nicknames at all (I believe the fictional Charles Emerson Winchester III of M*A*S*H would be an example of this last group).

    I do understand why people in this forum so often suggest bypassing a given grammatical, spelling, or pronunciation problem altogether by substituting a completely different construction. But every time that is suggested, it strikes me as an unsatisfactory or at least incomplete answer, for this simple reason: Everyone has to quote someone else speaking at some time or other. When faced with the problem of transcribing "He said he had borrowed Charlz-uhz car" you would have to write the possessive one way or the other, as Charles' or Charles's. You wouldn't have the luxury of avoiding the matter.
  13. theinquisitor Member

    Galicia - Galician
    Thanks everybody, especially to mplsray, for being so accurate, I love it!

  14. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  15. maicart

    maicart Senior Member

    Castellón, Spain
    Spanish, Spain
    I was wondering about the use of 's as a pronoun. Example:

    A: Is that cellphone yours?

    B1: No, it's Charles'.
    B2: No, it's Charles's.

    Is there any difference?
  16. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
  17. Keith Bradford

    Keith Bradford Senior Member

    Brittany, NW France
    English (Midlands UK)
    If you say it, there's a massive difference. That's why I prefer the version with the two s's; it's what we say.

    A: Is that cellphone yours? -- B1: No, it's Charles' /noʊ ɪtz tʃɑ:lz/ = You're mistaken, it's not a telephone, it's my friend Charles.:eek:

    A: Is that cellphone yours? -- B2: No, it's Charles's /noʊ ɪtz 'tʃɑ:lzɪz/ = No, it belongs to Charles.

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