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

Wordsmyth

Senior Member
Native language: English (BrE)
OK, I'm A.b. (but converted to B.)

You could indeed reasonably exclude those three august personalities from the discussion: they wouldn't contribute much, seeing they've shuffled off this mortal coil (well, Moses definitely ...). Also, two out of the three spoke Hebrew, which probably has different rules for the possessive! :D

Ws:)
 
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    OK, I'm A.b. (but converted to B.)
    That would confuse Hal - but if we wanted to account for such things as conversion from one way to another, we'd need to ask pollees* about their age, when they learned (or learnt) and when they converted. I'm sorry, Dave.

    (Is this a legitimate new word formation for people who have been polled?)

    Apologies to anyone who does not recognize Hal and Dave as characters from the movie and then book 2001: A Space Odyssey
     

    Eng Lit Teacher

    New Member
    English
    It would be Chris's dog. When showing possession or plural for words ending in s the rule is 's for words with one syllable e.g. St James's Palaces and s' for words with more than one syllable e.g. Father Christmas'
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    It would be Chris's dog. When showing possession or plural for words ending in s the rule is 's for words with one syllable e.g. St James's Palaces and s' for words with more than one syllable e.g. Father Christmas'

    A rule, rather than the rule - surely?

    Ps - welcome Eng Lit Teacher!
     
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    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    It would be Chris's dog. When showing possession or plural for words ending in s the rule is 's for words with one syllable e.g. St James's Palaces and s' for words with more than one syllable e.g. Father Christmas'

    Never heard any such rule about number of syllables. Singular words ending in "s" form their possessive as "s's" if the second "s "is pronounce -- regardless of the number of syllables, e.g. Father Christmas's, George Stephanopoulos's,etc.
     

    Nattuma

    New Member
    Danish
    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!
    "The dog of Chris ate the food" is not a way to escape the problem only a way to enhance the problem as it is absolutely wrong grammar! Here is the REAL original and absolutely correct written grammar rules (note that speech and writing can be considered to have each their own "grammar") regarding possessive forms: for animate objects (humans and animals): if the word ends on "s" you add only ' (Chris'). If there are no s at the end of the word add 's (The dog's tail).
    For inanimate objects (planets, plants, metals and so on): use the "of" construction (windows of the house, leaves of the tree). Never use possessive "of" construction for animate objects and never use '/'s for inanimate objects.
    Of course since the spoken language is a totally different story from the written language and the pronunciation Chris' dog would in spoken language sound like it should be Chrises dog. Such a thing might confuse some or even make some authors believe that the correct spelling should be Chris's dog, however I do not know of any Ministry of education in Australia, Canada, U.S.A, or most importantly Britain, which has announced such a change in the written grammar rules. A little hint as to the differences in written and spoken grammar: The word "aint" often used in spoken language is a contraction of are, is, and not, as in there are not and there is not as a cleaver way to avoid the grammar rules all together by simply using both “is” and “are” at the same time. The word could be written as a/i-n't or something of the sort (not in contraction = n't) however simply do not belong in any written articles. Does that make the use of the word wrong? NOT AT ALL! Written and spoken language is not the same! While written language is rules by the construction of letters and symbols, the spoken language is based on the understanding of the listeners, basically no rules except whether the listener understands the meaning (given the listener understands conversational English . So when teaching English it is always important to make sure if you are to teach written language (including speech in the fashion of the written language), spoken language, or both of them at the same time.
    Also note about the written grammar rules for possession regarding locations such as: we will meet at the Bakers' (baker as in location not as the living person) or ...it all happened when we were at his Fathers' (his father's place is correct, but when referred to as a location and not as one of the father's possessions it will always be Fathers'.
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    Welcome to the forum, Nattuma.

    The traditional rule taught in schools in the 1950s and '60s is to add 's to any singular noun ending in s when the added s is meant to be pronounced, which is usually the case. Now students in some places are being taught always to add only ' when the word already ends in s.

    This represents a change in culture in those places, but there is no Ministry of Education in the U.S.

    "The dog of Chris" sounds unnatural, probably to all native speakers, but "the dog of Chris, Janet, and Liz" and even "the dog of Chris Harris" are not wrong.

    Both "the tree's leaves" and "the leaves of the tree" are proper English, but the latter is obviously useful when we need to distinguish one tree's leaves from several trees' leaves in speech.

    Your "rule" about locations is new to me. I have only ever heard or read to use the same form when the modifier becomes a noun as when a noun follows: his father's place -> his father's; the baker's place -> the baker's (i.e. the bakery); the Bakers' house -> the Bakers' (i.e. where the Bakers live). Note my use of capitalization. A baker is someone who bakes (bread); the Bakers are a family whose surname is Baker.
     
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    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hello drategon.

    I know one would not say either "Chris' mother dog" or "Alan's mother dog" to refer to dogs that belonged the mothers of Chris or Alan.

    I think your first versions are correct, and I also think it would be correct to say "the dog of Chris' mother" and "the dog of Alan's mother."
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    and I also think it would be correct to say "the dog of Chris' mother" and "the dog of Alan's mother."
    Not recommended. Are you talking about the dog belonging to someone's mother, or about someone's dog's mother? I know the latter is unlikely, but compare "The King of Spain's daughter".
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Not recommended. Are you talking about the dog belonging to someone's mother, or about someone's dog's mother? I know the latter is unlikely, but compare "The King of Spain's daughter".

    I see your point. Out of context it can be understood two ways. But in context, would you call the phrasing wrong? Or even unidiomatic?
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    Not totally wrong, but unnatural enough to be worth avoiding. I think if you want the structure "the dog <something> Chris's mother", I'd use "belonging to" and not "of", but really I'd prefer "Chris's mother's dog".
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    I see your point. Out of context it can be understood two ways. But in context, would you call the phrasing wrong? Or even unidiomatic?
    It's a funny one - if we are talking about just one person then I'd say it's just wrong - e.g. *"the dog of Chris". Adding in the mother, e.g. "the dog of Chris's mother", makes it a little bit more acceptable but as Edinburgher says rather unnatural and I'd avoid it too. I'm not sure why the second should not be as "wrong" as the first though.
     

    EStjarn

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    But if instead of her dog we referred to her house - "the house of Chris's mother" - would that also seem odd to you? Or is this phrase perhaps acceptable because it can be understood only one way? (Houses don't have mothers.)
     

    timpeac

    Senior Member
    English (England)
    But if instead of her dog we referred to her house - "the house of Chris's mother" - would that also seem odd to you? Or is this phrase perhaps acceptable because it can be understood only one way? (Houses don't have mothers.)
    No, it's exactly the same. "The house of Jane" is impossible (well unless Jane is a surname as in "the house of Usher" where this is a particular and rather unusual meaning of "house" means "dynasty" - "A dynasty is also often called a house (e.g., House of Saud and House of Windsor), and may be described as imperial, royal, ducal, princely or comital depending upon the chief title borne by its rulers" , but I'm sure that's not what you meant). "The house of Chris's mother" is the same too, more acceptable but still highly unusual.

    I wonder if the reason that "the house of Chris's mother" is more acceptable - or rather simply not impossible as "the house of Chris" is - is that it is clearer, particularly if there are many possessives as in "the house of Chris's mother's ex-husband's first daughter's son". Putting "the house of..." in this last example doesn't seem strange at all.
     

    ShineLikeStars

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    Oh my.

    This thread has given me a headache. :)

    Please could someone just answer yes or no to my question below?

    There is no set rule and it depends on the country. Yes or No?

    Chris's dog is BE
    Chris' dog is AE.
     

    Hildy1

    Senior Member
    English - US and Canada
    Sorry, I was taking the "just answer yes or no" question literally.:) My "no" was to the statement that "Chris's dog" is BE and "Chris' dog" is AE. That's too simple. I agree that there is no agreement about the matter, as seen by the seven pages (so far) of posts.
     

    Fumiko Take

    Senior Member
    Vietnamese
    <<Moderator note: Fumiko's question has been merged with the previous discussions. Feel free to read from the top>>


    Genetive case: Anais's or Anais'? James's or James'? Chris's or Chris'?
    Apparently, the pronunciations I've heard is /ˌænaɪˈiːsɪz/, /dʒeɪmzɪz/ and /krɪsɪz/. But I'm not sure about the spellings.
     
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    africansage

    New Member
    English - South Africa
    FYI

    In South Africa, (being a child of the 80s myself), we were taught the following rules:

    1. Chris (is an individual) = Chris's dog (shows Chris's possession of the dog);
    2. Executors (as a group) (not an individual) = executors' dog (shows the executors' possession of the dog).

    So:

    As it is John's dog, it too is Chris's dog, and it is also the executors' dog.

    As such, if one wrote Chris' dog, it would mean Chris was a group and not an individual.

    Although remember:

    A company is still a single entity - McDonalds's burgers. (McDonalds owns the burgers and is a single entity).

    But a group:

    The Companies' shares. (Many companies own the shares).

    :)
     

    africansage

    New Member
    English - South Africa
    Unfortunately, the name of the company is not McDonalds but McDonald's.

    I would write "McDonald's burgers", referring to the burgers made and sold by the company.

    Lol! You can see I'm not a meat eater ;)

    As such, your use of the apostrophe above, is absolutely correct :)
     

    africansage

    New Member
    English - South Africa
    If you knew for a fact that Chris was more than one person or a group of people, then you could use the apostrophe at the end: "Chris' dog". I would say that it would be rare that just "Chris" would be used for many people or a group of people. :)
     

    MuttQuad

    Senior Member
    English - AmE
    A possessive for a word ending in "s" generally takes apostrophe-s, e.g. Chris's. The possessive for a plural word ending in "s" generally takes just an apostrophe, e.g the spectators' enthusiasm as opposed to the spectator's enthusiasm, if only one spectator is being referred.

    One great rule of thumb mentioned by language expert Richard Lederer is that you write it the way you pronounce it.
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] A company is still a single entity - McDonalds's burgers. (McDonalds owns the burgers and is a single entity). [...]

    That's the trouble with rules that are too rigid. Even if the name of the company were written "McDonalds", your "McDonalds's" would suggest the pronunciation "McDonaldses". Since, as far as I'm aware, nobody says that, then that s's would be totally unrepresentative.

    Ws:)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    That's the trouble with rules that are too rigid. Even if the name of the company were written "McDonalds", your "McDonalds's" would suggest the pronunciation "McDonaldses". Since, as far as I'm aware, nobody says that, then that s's would be totally unrepresentative.

    Ws:)
    I say that, but I don't know how to write it since it has that apostrophe between "d" and "s". I pronounce "Chris's" as two syllables, and that is why I write it that way.
     
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    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    Do you mean you actually say "McDonaldses", Forero? That sounds really weird to me.

    I fully agree with your previous post:
    Unfortunately, the name of the company is not McDonalds but McDonald's.

    I would write "McDonald's burgers", referring to the burgers made and sold by the company.
    I would also write it that way, and I'd say it as it's written. That seems logical to me ...

    If the McDonald brothers had played it like Henry Ford (the Ford Motor Company, not Ford's Motor Company), then the company name would've been "McDonald ...", and people would eat McDonald hamburgers (just as they drive Ford cars). In fact the brand name (Ford, McDonald's), when used before the product name, isn't really a possessive like Chris's dog; it's actually a name being used attributively (Ford cars, Boeing aircraft, Levi's jeans, Macy's menswear, ... McDonald's hamburgers). Would anyone say "Macyses" or "Levises"?

    I suppose, since McDonald's was started up by two brothers, that it could be argued that the name should have been McDonalds', but if that were the case I'd still write (and say) "McDonalds' hamburgers".

    Ws:)
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Do you mean you actually say "McDonaldses", Forero? That sounds really weird to me.
    I have never tried write it, and I cannot guess how to, but where I come from we say, strictly informally speaking, something that sounds like "McDonaldses" for both a possessive (e.g. "M...s default sauces for a hamburger") and a plural (e.g. "Our town is big enough for three M..s").
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    OK, I live and learn! I've actually spent some time in Houston, but I didn't ever notice that. Maybe I didn't go to enough Macdos (as they're often called where I live — there, that solves the problem;)).

    So what about Macy's? (as a possessive or a plural ... I think you have more than one of them, too.)

    Ws:)
     

    Half_Prince

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Seeing as this thread has literally been going on for years, I won't feel too bad about throwing my question in here.

    After reading through the thread, I gather there is obviously no agreement on how to spell the possessive. But would you say there is some disagreement too on how to pronounce the possessive form of certain names? From what I've read here, whether they're written as Jesus' or Jesus's, Moses' or Moses's some people would pronounce these names as /Jesus/ and /Moses/ and others as /Jesuses/ and /Moseses/, some would say /Macdonalds/ and some /Macdonaldses/ burgers. Am I right?

    How would you pronounce ''Achilles'' in ''Achilles' heel'', /Achilles/ or /Achilleses/? Would anyone pronounce ''Bridges' appeal'' (as in someone surnamed 'Bridges' appealing a verdict) as /Bridgeses/? (I'm guessing not but you never know lol)

    @JulianStuart: Thanks for directing me to this thread! I find your spelling system quite logical, but I'd still like to make sure I'm pronouncing the possessive forms properly.
    Welcome Shaazzaam!
    I only use the -s' version for words where the s denotes plural. For all others (mostly names) the -s does not denote plural so it gets -s's. This allows the elimination of ambiguities for William and Williams (and similar) name forms : Williams' means belonging to the William brothers, while Williams's means belonging to Williams. Willamses means two or more people called Williams. Their belongings are e.g. the Williamses' tennis rackets - similarly the Joneses' rackets for the Jones brothers.

    Could you —or anyone else— tell me if Williams', Williams's and Williamses' are all pronounced [Williamses]? (I really hope Williamses' isn't pronounced [Williamseses] because I couldn't bring myself to say that :p).

    I would appreciate any help :)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Seeing as this thread has literally been going on for years, I won't feel too bad about throwing my question in here.

    After reading through the thread, I gather there is obviously no agreement on how to spell the possessive. But would you say there is some disagreement too on how to pronounce the possessive form of certain names? From what I've read here, whether they're written as Jesus' or Jesus's, Moses' or Moses's some people would pronounce these names as /Jesus/ and /Moses/ and others as /Jesuses/ and /Moseses/, some would say /Macdonalds/ and some /Macdonaldses/ burgers. Am I right?

    How would you pronounce ''Achilles'' in ''Achilles' heel'', /Achilles/ or /Achilleses/? Would anyone pronounce ''Bridges' appeal'' (as in someone surnamed 'Bridges' appealing a verdict) as /Bridgeses/? (I'm guessing not but you never know lol)

    @JulianStuart: Thanks for directing me to this thread! I find your spelling system quite logical, but I'd still like to make sure I'm pronouncing the possessive forms properly.


    Could you —or anyone else— tell me if Williams', Williams's and Williamses' are all pronounced [Williamses]? (I really hope Williamses' isn't pronounced [Williamseses] because I couldn't bring myself to say that :p).

    I would appreciate any help :)
    For me:
    The first is said as written - Williams' - there are several people called William so the Williams form is a plural. Thus it gets only the apostrophe and is not pronounced with the extra -es.
    The second is one person named Williams and it is not a plural, so it gets the 's and the extra -es in pronunciation.
    The last is a group of people whose last name is Willams. As a family they are "The Williamses" - that is how we make plural out of a proper name ending in -s. Now when we make a possessive out of it, we simply add the ' and no extra syllable, so it's pronounced the same as the second version "Williams's". In short, the second and third are pronounced Wlliamses.
     
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    Half_Prince

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    For me:
    The first is said as written - Williams' - there are several people called William so the Williams form is a plural. Thus it gets only the apostrophe and is not pronounced with the extra -es.
    The second is one person named Williams and it is not a plural, so it gets the 's and the extra -es in pronunciation.
    The last is a group of people whose last name is Willams. As a family they are "The Williamses" - that is how we make plural out of a proper name ending in -s. Now when we make a possessive out of it, we simply add the ' and no extra syllable, so it's pronounced the same as the second version "Williams's". In short, the second and third are pronounced Wlliamses.


    It's clear now. Thank you so much! :)
     

    london calling

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I'd usually say just "James" (with more of an emphasis on the sibilant at the end than the normal name), but always say Chris's.
    I always say James's and Chris's but tend to write James' and Chris' (I'm old school), but St. James's Park in London is written and pronounced with an 's' (I'm a Londoner).
     

    Edinburgher

    Senior Member
    German/English bilingual
    I always say James's and Chris's but tend to write James' and Chris' (I'm old school),
    "Old school"? Blimey! More like pre-historic! You must be older-school even than Fowler, who writes that "it was formerly {my emphasis, here and below} customary, when a word ended in -s, to write its possessive with an apostrophe but no additional s."
    He adds that in verse and reverential contexts this custom is retained, but that there is no "ziz" pronunciation, "the number of syllables is the same as in the subjective case" so that Achilles' has three and Jesus' has two.
    He continues: "But elsewhere we now usually add the s and the syllable, always when the word is monosyllabic, and preferably when it is longer."
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    "Old school"? Blimey! More like pre-historic! You must be older-school even than Fowler, who writes that "it was formerly {my emphasis, here and below} customary, when a word ended in -s, to write its possessive with an apostrophe but no additional s."
    He adds that in verse and reverential contexts this custom is retained, but that there is no "ziz" pronunciation, "the number of syllables is the same as in the subjective case" so that Achilles' has three and Jesus' has two.
    He continues: "But elsewhere we now usually add the s and the syllable, always when the word is monosyllabic, and preferably when it is longer."
    I know it's a long thread but if you go back, you will find that the apostrophe without a following s is still quite common in AE. Chicago's style guide still allows both as correct but more recently has expressed a preference for the addition of the s.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm like lc - I pronounce the possessive of James or Charles with two syllables but I quite often write it as James' or Charles' . It's good to know we have the support of the Chicago Manual of Style!:D
     
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