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Apostrophe s vs. s Apostrophe: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 29, 2024
Apostrophe s ('s) indicates possession for singular nouns or plural nouns not ending in s, while s apostrophe (s') is used for possessive plural nouns ending in s.

Key Differences

Apostrophe s ('s) is typically used to show possession for singular nouns, indicating that something belongs to or is associated with someone or something. For example, "the cat's toy" implies the toy belongs to the cat. S apostrophe (s'), however, is not used with singular nouns.
S apostrophe (s') is used when the plural form of a noun ends in s and shows possession, like "the dogs' owner" indicating the owner of multiple dogs. Apostrophe s ('s) is not generally used in this context, as it is primarily for singular nouns or plural nouns not ending in s.
The use of apostrophe s ('s) can sometimes affect pronunciation, adding an extra syllable, as in "James's book." In contrast, s apostrophe (s') does not usually change the pronunciation of the plural noun it modifies, as in "students' reports."
There are exceptions and stylistic variations in using apostrophe s ('s), especially with proper nouns ending in s, where practices may vary. For instance, "Charles's guitar" or "Charles' guitar" are both acceptable. S apostrophe (s') usage is more straightforward and follows the general rule for plural nouns ending in s.
The use of apostrophe s ('s) and s apostrophe (s') reflects historical and stylistic preferences in English. Over time, the rules governing their use have evolved, but the fundamental distinction remains based on the singularity or plurality of the possessing noun.

Comparison Chart

Usage with Nouns

Singular nouns and plural nouns not ending in s
Plural nouns ending in s

Indicates Possession For

One person, place, or thing
Multiple people, places, or things

Pronunciation Effect

May add an extra syllable
Usually does not change pronunciation

Common Examples

"John's book"
"Girls' dresses"

Exception Handling

Varied usage with names ending in s
Straightforward, follows plural rules

Apostrophe s and s Apostrophe Definitions

Apostrophe s

Used to show ownership by a singular entity.
Jessica's car is parked outside.

s Apostrophe

Used for possessive form of plural nouns ending in s.
The students' exams were graded fairly.

Apostrophe s

Can indicate a contraction, such as "it's" for "it is."
It's going to rain today.

s Apostrophe

Does not typically change the pronunciation of the noun.
The houses' roofs were damaged in the storm.

Apostrophe s

Sometimes adds an extra syllable in pronunciation.
Thomas's book is on the table.

s Apostrophe

Utilized in cases of pluralized proper names ending in s.
The Williams' house is at the end of the street.

Apostrophe s

Indicates possession for a singular noun.
The teacher's desk was cluttered with papers.

s Apostrophe

Reflects ownership by more than one person or thing.
The teachers' lounge was renovated.

Apostrophe s

Applied to singular proper nouns ending in s.
James's guitar was found in the studio.

s Apostrophe

Indicates possession belonging to multiple entities.
The cats' toys were scattered everywhere.


What is the purpose of an s apostrophe (s')?

It's used for showing possession in plural nouns that end in s.

Does apostrophe s ('s) always indicate possession?

Mostly, but it can also indicate a contraction, like "it's."

Can apostrophe s ('s) be used for plural nouns?

Yes, but only if the plural form doesn’t end in s.

When do I use apostrophe s ('s)?

Use apostrophe s ('s) for showing possession in singular nouns or plural nouns not ending in s.

Where do I place s apostrophe (s') in a word?

Place it after the plural noun ending in s, like “dogs'.”

Do I add an extra s with s apostrophe (s') in pronunciation?

No, the pronunciation usually doesn’t change with s apostrophe (s').

How do I know when to use s apostrophe (s')?

Use it when the noun is plural and ends in s.

How does apostrophe s ('s) affect pronunciation?

It can add an extra syllable, like in “James’s.”

Can s apostrophe (s') be used for singular nouns?

No, it’s only for plural nouns ending in s.

Is it correct to say “James’s bike” or “James’ bike”?

Both are correct; usage varies with personal or regional preference.

Are there exceptions to using s apostrophe (s')?

It’s generally straightforward without exceptions for plural nouns ending in s.

What's a common mistake with apostrophe s ('s)?

Using it incorrectly for plural nouns that end in s.

How do style guides differ on apostrophe s ('s)?

Style guides may vary in usage, especially with names ending in s.

Can I use s apostrophe (s') with names?

Yes, for pluralized names ending in s, like “the Smiths’ home.”

In what situation is apostrophe s ('s) commonly used?

When indicating ownership by a single person or thing, like “girl’s dress.”

Can apostrophe s ('s) be used with inanimate objects?

Yes, like in “the car’s engine.”

How does context affect the use of apostrophe s ('s)?

Context determines whether it’s possessive or a contraction.

Is s apostrophe (s') ever used in contractions?

No, it’s only for possessive cases.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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