Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Wiley-Blackwell Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info

Ask-A-Linguist Message Details

Subject: 's following a noun ending in 's'
Question: Should there be an extra s at the end of the possessive case of a singular noun ending in s? For example, is Xanadu 2.0 Bill Gates's house or Bill Gates' house? (I pronounce it as Bill Gates's house, but how should I spell it?) Should we pray in Jesus's name or in Jesus' name?
Reply: This is a usage question rather similar to the recent one we had about 'an historic occasion'. Most style guides would cover this issue -- for example Pam Peters has a balanced discussion in The Cambridge Guide to Australian Usage (Australia's no different from anywhere else on this, and most other usage questions). If a singular noun ends with the sound /s/, there is a choice in Standard English: 'Gates' house' or 'Gates's' house. This is a choice both in pronunciation and in writing. Some people feel passionately that one is right and the other is wrong. However, there are quite a few people who have learnt that 'Gates' house' is the only one that is right in writing, whatever you say. So there are a good many people who SAY 'Gates's house' and write 'Gates' house'. I just noticed recently that my old editions of the Rev Awdry's railway stories write about 'Thomas's branch line' whereas the current editions have 'Thomas' branch line'. This reflects a change in editorial policy. This change can be in either direction over time, depending on the individual preferences of whoever makes the decisions. Personally, I believe in going with the sound. I talk about 'Keats's poetry', so that's what I write too. I also wish that Standard Englosh orthography would give up the confusing and historically recent possessive apostrophe and go back to just using the apostrophe to show omissions. [Any of my students reading this should know that this doesn't mean I don't correct non-standard usage.] Anthea
Reply From: Anthea Fraser Gupta      click here to access email
Date: 03-Jul-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: 's following a noun ending in 's'    Susan Fischer     (03-Jul-2012)
  2. Re: 's following a noun ending in 's'    Elizabeth J Pyatt     (03-Jul-2012)
  3. Re: 's following a noun ending in 's'    Geoffrey Richard Sampson     (04-Jul-2012)

Back to Most Recent Questions