Rules for Names Ending in 's'

Instructor: Charles Kinney, Jr.
There are sometimes several rules for names ending in 's' like Travis or virus. In this lesson, you will learn about the rules that apply, exceptions and which form is better to use in different language situations.

Two Rules for Names Ending in S?

It can be confusing when we talk about rules for names ending in 's.' Take my name, 'Charles.' When I was in school, I was told to always add an apostrophe s ('s) to show something that was mine: 'This is Charles's car.'

I always thought that was one 's' too many. It sounded like the sound snakes make.

Then I was told that it was perfectly okay to write: 'This is Charles' car.'

That looks confusing and similar to when we want to show possession for something that is plural: 'This is the girls' room.' (Two or more girls are sharing the room). So, which one is correct?

The Standard Rules

Let's look at the normal rules for words when we add apostrophe s ('s).

For Plural Nouns

For plural nouns (more than one thing), we add an apostrophe (') to show possession.

  • The dog's house (one dog)
  • The dogs' house (two or more dogs)

For Words that End with S

Adding apostrophe s ('s) to word that end with 's' is correct. However, this is important: for words that end with 's,' both forms are acceptable. So, it is also okay to only add an apostrophe ('). The most important thing is to be consistent.

Some people say that words that end with 's' that sound like 'z' always take 's.' To an English speaker, this sounds more correct but grammatically, both forms are acceptable. Let's take a look at an example.

  • Boss (sounds like Bozs)
  • Boss's desk (correct)
  • Boss' desk (correct)
  • For bosses (two or more bosses), we use a normal apostrophe: bosses' desk.

Let's take Travis, a name. Travis sounds like Traviz.

  • This is Travis's house. (correct and sounds better)
  • This is Travis' house. (correct but awkward-sounding)

Again, what matters is that whatever you use, make sure you use the same in whatever you write.

Singular Nouns that Look Like Plural

There are a few words that look like plural nouns (more than one) but are single nouns. Then it gets very confusing. Let's take aerobics, billiards, and virus. Grammatically, it would be correct to add 's' but it would sound strange to say. There is another rule that adjectives (something describes a noun) can never be plural.

  • I like water aerobics. (correct)
  • This is the water aerobics' teacher. (incorrect)
  • This is the water aerobics teacher. (correct)

Let's take another look, this time at billiards.

  • Billiards is played on a green table. (correct)
  • This is the billiards' table. (incorrect)
  • This is the billiard table. (correct)

One more example is with virus:

  • I found the virus' cure! (correct but awkward)

Because the plural of virus is viruses and the end of virus sounds like a z, it sounds better to say or write:

  • I found the virus's cure!

However, the simple solution is to rewrite the sentence with a different word order:

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