Plural Possessives: Why You Put an Apostrophe After the S

what are plural possessives?

It’s common for people to wonder, “What does it mean to put an apostrophe after an S?” It can get a bit confusing. To get it right, you need to understand what a possessive is.

Possessives are used to show ownership; to show that something belongs to someone. “The president’s official airplane” is one example. The airplane belongs to the president, of course. But there is only one president; after all, you don’t have two presidents of the same country. So, this is a singular possessive made by adding an apostrophe and an “s.”

But with a phrase such as “the thieves’ jewels,” you have a plural noun: thieves. Most of the time, a plural noun will be formed by adding “s” to it. In this case, you also change the spelling but don’t worry about that now. The main issue is the final letter, which is “s.” Houses, cats, clouds, essays, rainbows: these are all plural nouns.

As you can see, the fact that the thieves (illegally) possess the jewels is shown simply by adding an apostrophe after the noun and after the letter “s.” They may not possess these valuables for long unless they’re clever and know how to escape the police, but they do for now. And that’s how you form a plural possessive.

To recap, usually if the noun is singular, the apostrophe will go before the s, but if the noun happens to be plural, the apostrophe will go after the s.

Plural Possessive Examples

  • The Simpsons’ spaceship (the spaceship belongs to the Simpson family; you make the family name plural to show that you’re referring to all of the family members)
  • The dogs’ tails (the tails belong to the dogs)
  • The lakes’ water (the water belongs to the lakes)

You have to be careful with the last example because if you only wish to talk about one lake, you must write: “the lake’s water.” In this case, that’s a singular possessive.

An even bigger problem these days is when people write sentences such as this: “None of the monkey’s looked happy in the zoo.” There is no reason to use an apostrophe to make a possessive here. The sentence is only talking about monkeys in the plural. They do not own anything! However, this is a commonly repeated mistake across the Internet.

Sometimes it’s hard to see how the possessive works. “You owe me three months’ pay immediately!” Oh, I do? Let me check my wallet. And my grammar guide. Why is there an apostrophe after “months?” Because the pay is equal to three months of work. In a sense, the pay belongs to those three months. It’s like saying “three months of pay.” If you can use the word “of” in the sentence, then you probably need an apostrophe.

Irregular Plural Possessives

Now that you think you’ve learned all the rules, you’re in for a surprise. There’s another type of plural possessive: the irregular plural possessive. The children’s work was so poorly done that the teacher fainted and had to go to the hospital. Okay, this might not really happen, but I used to be a teacher, and sometimes I felt like fainting!

The main point is this. “Children” is already plural. You cannot add “s” to the word itself to make it plural. So when you want to show possession, you put the apostrophe first, then the “s.” Here are some more examples.

  • The women’s babies (“women” is the plural form of “woman”)
  • The firemen’s trucks (“firemen” is the plural of “fireman”)
  • The dice’s roll (“dice” always means there is more than one)

These look like singular possessives, but they aren’t.

Compound Plural Possessives

You may have thought we had exhausted all of the plural possessives, but there’s one more rule you need to know. It deals with compound plural possessives. For example, “Sam and Dave” is a compound. There are two parts. So which of the following is correct?

  • Sam and Dave’s song was number one for six months.
  • Sam’s and Dave’s song was number one for six months.

The correct one is the first. Why? Because Sam and Dave made or performed the song together. It belongs to both of them. Only one possessive needs to be given. But you need to be careful.

  • Lucy’s and Gina’s cars are the fastest on my street.
  • Mick’s and Rod’s views on equal rights are impressive.

In these two examples, you need two possessives, one for each proper noun. Lucy and Gina both have different cars. Mick and Rod have separate views. However, what if Lucy and Gina were mother and daughter, and both of them had the same cars? Then you need to change the sentence to “Lucy and Gina’s cars are the fastest on my street.”

With compound plural possessives, it’s important to remember you have to think a little and decide whether you are talking about two separate people or things, or a single unit with two parts.

  • Hey, my name is Heiko. I came here because I didn’t know what plural possessive meant when reading it in my grammar book. It’s good that there is a clear explanation like this to help people like me. Thank you!

    • You’re more than welcome. part of this blog is to help people understand the words they are writing and to bet better at it. Glad that you understand a bit more after reading the article.

  • This has always been quite confusing for me. Especially when the word already ends in an “s” — I never know what to do with it. It even gets worse when words and in two “ss” I think that there should be a better way to indicate possessive than with an apostrophe since that’s used for conjunctions.

    • (I’m responding even though this was sent four years ago), but with words that end with “s” in a possessive manner have an apostrophe after the word. For example, consider my name. My last name is Jones, so in a possessive scenario in a sentence say, “That is Levi Jones’ property” you would use the apostrophe.

  • Why do I see double “s” sometimes? Is this correct?


    or should it be


    or should it be


    for the sentence “he’s trying to keep up with the Joneses/Jones’/Jones’s

      • If a word/name ends in aN s, just put aN ‘ (not another s), if what you want to show is possession: This is James’ house… And, if you’re talking about the letter s or the word/symbol apostrophe, you use the word AN before it, not A — anytime the next word begins with a vowel sound, use AN (aN interesting day; aN unexpected guest; aN apple, etc.) . . .

    • In that particular sentence, it would have to be ‘Joneses’ bc there is no possession involved in keeping up, it’s just a plural thing; if, however, you were going to the Jones’ house, that’s where the apostrophe comes in . . .

    • “The Joneses” is a common plural for “Jones. (It referes to several of the Joneses – usually the heads of the household, as in Mr. and Mrs. Jones, or for the whole family.

      “Some of the Joneses” might stand in for a subset of Joneses.

      Either “Joneses'” or “Jones'” works as the possessive plural, as in “look at the Joneses’ (or Jones’) new car!”

    • If there’s only one, it’s “the cloud’s temperature” but, if you are referring to more than one cloud, you need a possessive apostrophe, not just an s: “the clouds’ temperature” — and, be careful with what follows; if you are talking about more than one, the ‘temperature’ would be okay if they’re all the same but, if each cloud was different, the temperature changes: “the clouds’ temperatureS varied”

  • If there is a Chinese surmane – Cheung , and I want to represent all family members. Which one is correct?

    The Cheungs’ Christmas crate


    Cheungs’ Christmas crate


  • Hi,
    I’m wondering when there is a plural possessive followed by another plural what happens with the apostrophe?
    Eg. people’s views and ideas OR peoples’ views and ideas
    organisation’s requirements OR organisations’ requirements

    Thanks in advance for your assistance.

    • In both of your examples more context would be needed to determine which option is correct. None of those examples are inherently wrong. The people’s/peoples’ one is almost always going to be the first one because in most cases ‘people’ is the plural of ‘person.’ An example of correct usage for the second case would be:

      “The indigenous peoples’ views and ideas have evolved over time.”

      As for organization’s/organizations’ it all depends if you are referring to the requirements of a single organization or the requirements of a group of organizations. The plural possessive is not affected by whether the thing being possessed is itself plural or not. Although, English has many exceptions to its many rules so there might be a specific case where that doesn’t hold true, but I can’t think of any off-hand.

    • In both cases, the pluralization of the noun(s) following the verb doesn’t matter. So it would be “people’s views and ideas.”

      This is explained above, under irregular possessives> “People” is already plural, so “people’s” is correct regardless of what comes after it.

      If the people collectively owned several cats, and we were discussing the cats’ toys. it would be “the people’s cats’ toys.” If the people owned only one cat, it would be “the people’s cat’s toys.”

      In the case of the organization, it’s singular, so “organization’s requirements” is correct.

  • If I am referring to parents of kids at a school called St. George’s, can I say St. George’s’ parents?

    • St. George’s is already possessive, so I think you can. The word “school” is implied.

      If you were going to write out the whole name, I think you’d say St. George’s School’s students’ parents. Or just St. George’s School’s parents. But I think it’s better to leave out all that unnecessary verbiage and write it as you have.

    • I’m going out on a limb here, because nobody has answered you for so long, and say that you would ask: “What is Brian from Chicago’s contact information?”

      I’m not sure whether that gets a period in addition to the question mark inside the final quotation mark.

    • It’s a badly worded question. I would instead ask “What is the contact information of Brian from Chicago?”

  • The books were kept in the teachers staffroom….what would be the possessive noun here and for the boys greenroom was messy.

  • Great page! I’d only quibble with the example citing Lucy and Gina’s cars; if they both owned any number of cars together, then your example would work (and be more likely.) I’m not sure their familial relationship really matters at all, because unless they co-own the cars, they don’t belong to both ladies. I can’t see how it would matter if both cars were the same make, model and year, identical in every way. They aren’t, either together or apart, the property of both women.

  • I ‘m making a sign for Josh and Laura’s fire pit, but I just want to use their last name. EXP. The Barczak’s Fire Pit or The Barczaks’ Fire Pit. Which one is correct?

    • Darn, this is one of my “favorites” (or you could say one of my pet peeves). ‘Hope you got advice elsewhere before having the sign made. The fire pit belongs to both of the Barczaks. Therefore, a sign should say The Barczaks’ Fire Pit. Over the years, I have seen that most people’s signs of this nature are incorrect. It drives me crazy! Also, if a last name ends in s, like Simmons, it would read The Simmonses’ Fire Pit.

  • Comical liberal propaganda infused throughout your garbage: Lucy and Gina own hot rods; equal rights. HAHAHAHA…..bunch of clowns.

  • What about when the singular and plural are exactly the same ie deer and sheep. Where does the apostrophe go in each case?

  • I need assistance with a name that ends in s. For example, Polyphemus from the Odyssey.
    I am speaking of when Odysseus stabbed Polyphemus in the eye

    …so they could plunge the fiery steak into Polyphemus’s eye

    Did I do that correctly? Or do I just use Polyphemus’ eye?

  • Is an apostrophe supposed to be in this sentence?
    “Our GC’s are still looking for qualified contractors to bid on these new construction jobs. “

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