A Student's Guide to Possessive Nouns

Nouns are one of the first types of words that you learn about in your early elementary years. By now, you might already know that a noun is a person, place or thing, and that they often serve as the subject of a sentence.

As you get further into learning about nouns, you’ll find that there are multiple types. Common nouns are generic ones that don’t provide a lot of detail. For example, the word country is a common noun, but France isn’t because it gets more specific about the place.

Proper nouns are ones that you use every day, since they are often names. These nouns are capitalized to show their significance. Sometimes, these and other types of nouns need a few changes to make it clear that they show the subject is in possession of something.

possessive noun examples

The possessive nouns definition includes that these words demonstrate someone’s ownership of something else. The most noticeable characteristic that you’ll find with these nouns is that there is usually an apostrophe followed by the letter “s” at the end.

Learning how and when to put the apostrophe and final letter on the word helps you to gain better mastery over making nouns possessive.


Know This Teacher’s Best Tip for Handling Singular Possessive Nouns


When a noun is singular, all you have to do is add the apostrophe and “s” to the end.

You don’t have to make any other changes to the ending letter.

Here are a few examples of possessive nouns to help you see how this looks.

  • book’s
  • car’s
  • person’s
  • puppy’s

Watch Students’ Grammar Improve By Adding “S” to Plural Nouns

After exploring how singular nouns turn into their possessive form, you might start to wonder how you’ll handle words that end in the letter “s”. After all, having two of the same letter at the end of a word might look a bit clunky or repetitive.

Since most nouns end in “s” when they are in their plural form, you can simply leave off the extra letter and just place the apostrophe at the end. Check out these common plural nouns that have been changed into possessives.

  • babies’
  • employees’
  • cows’
  • gamers’

Remember It’s Okay to Leave Its Alone

Occasionally, grammar rules have to be relaxed to accommodate the fact that other words can make things confusing. It’s is already in use as a contraction that means “it is”. If you were to add the usual apostrophe and “s” to the word “it,” then it would just look like the contraction.

To avoid a simple mix-up, the rules change when you are dealing with this word in the possessive form. All you have to do with this word is drop the apostrophe. For example, you will write about “its fluffy fur” or “its favorite food.”


Learn How to Handle A Compound Noun’s Change to Possessive

Compound and hyphenated words can also make things a little tricky when you want to make them possessive. Fortunately, they also aren’t too hard to figure out once you know what you are doing. For these, you just add the apostrophe and “s” to the end like you would with singular nouns.

You can look at these examples of possessive nouns for compound and hyphenated words to improve your understanding.

  • Check out my father-in-law’s new tractor.
  • Do you know the Rocky Mountain National Park’s hours?
  • Look at this t-shirt’s awesome graphic!
  • Make sure to stop by the vice-principal’s office today.

Add “S” to Only the Last Noun’s Ending for Shared Possession

Sometimes, you’ll have two nouns in a sentence that share ownership of something. For instance, you might want to show that both Kylie and Amina share a locker. In this case, you only need to add the possessive apostrophe and “s” to the last noun in the sentence.

For this example, you would write, “Kylie and Amina’s locker.”


Indicate Separate Ownership by Adding “S” to Both Nouns

You will also run into situations where the two nouns have separate ownership of something. With these, you give both nouns an apostrophe and “s” to show that each one has sole ownership, even if you are talking about a similar object or thing.

Here are some examples of possessive nouns with separate ownership:

  • Jason’s and Clay’s bikes were left outside at the park on accident.
  • Will you please fill the dog’s and cat’s food bowls?
  • Mrs. Smith’s and Mr. Clark’s classrooms are right down the hall from the bathroom.

Learning how to make nouns possessive is fun, and it adds a new level of depth to your writing when you know how to add that apostrophe and “s” or leave it off. Now, you can take it one step further by exploring possessive adjectives. Words like “my” or “your” also add more definition to your writing, and you’ll find that using them is just as easy as what you’re doing now with possessive nouns.