DCML Digest, Vol 37, Issue 11

Dan Shane danshane at bellsouth.net
Mon Mar 13 15:00:47 CET 2006


> Donald D. Markstein wrote:
> > In English, the
> > apostrophe followed by S is ALWAYS used to indicate 
> possessive case, 
> > except with a PLURAL noun that ends in S.


> In English, some proper names, such as "Paris", are typically 
> written in singular, while other proper names, such as 
> "Athens", are typically in plural.  Does this mean that the 
> correct genitive cases for those place names are "Paris's" 
> and "Athens'" respectively?  How do you know if a proper name 
> is singular or plural?


Place names are not considered plural just because they end with "S".  Any
such name is considered singular (at least in English).  However, in English
grammar there are *always* exceptions, and Don seems to have overlooked one.
Some proper nouns that end in "S" have traditionally been made possessive by
adding only the apostrophe because adding another "S" would make the name
sound clumsy.  Two notable exceptions are "Moses' and 'Jesus'.  I have begun
to see the possessive form of Jesus spelled "Jesus's" in United Kingdom
countries, but in the U.S.A. it is still quite rare to see that spelling.

The debate goes on.  There seems to be no consensus on the proper possessive
of a proper noun that ends in "S", but the important thing is to be
consistent.  While the Internet should seldom be considered a universal tool
for accuracy, I don't believe many would that citing a university's Web page
on the use of the apostrophe is inappropriate.

Here are a few:



... And even one from a UK university that concedes the solitary apostrophe
(James') is just as correct as the normal form (James's).


(Disclosure:  Dan Shane's mostly worthless opinion is that both methods are
fine, but he begins to spit fire when he sees "their" spelled "they're" or
"there", non-possessive "its" spelled "it's", or "would have" rendered as
"would of".  I would gladly suffer "Jesus'" or "Jesus's" equally if people
would just accept kind counsel on simple grammar rules that are universally

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