Calling all grammar geeks!

by DaniGirl on March 5, 2008 · 23 comments

in My inner geek, Wordplay

Growing up with a surname that ended in the letter “s”, it was drilled into me from an early age that one does not add the superfluous “s” after the apostrophe to indicate possession in this situation. Now, it seems common usage prefers the additional “s” after the apostrophe: i.e. Lucas’s breakfast.

Discuss: the correct way to use a possessive apostrophe with a singular proper noun ending in the letter “s” is to use only the apostrophe. i.e. Lucas’ breakfast.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sharon March 5, 2008 at 3:16 pm

Ok If I go back to Universtiy (Please God) I’m getting you to check all my Grammer and to proof read.
I have no clue about any of this.

2 Catherine March 5, 2008 at 3:43 pm

What I learned was that one uses an apostrophe s with singular possessive nouns as well as plural nouns not ending in s and simply an apostrophe with plural nouns ending with s. I also learned the apostrophe only after all nouns ending in s in elementary school but I’ve come to appreciate the consistency of the way I was taught in my composition courses and for my writing center gig.

3 daysgoby March 5, 2008 at 4:05 pm

Yes, I’m interested in this too. Because every time I write Cass’s or Cass’ it looks wrong.

4 Rebecca March 5, 2008 at 4:25 pm

S’. Jones’. Yes.

There’s a fella in a band I like called Didz, and there’s always hella confusion about whether it’s Didz’s or Didz’ or even Didx’s. Weird

5 Liz March 5, 2008 at 4:42 pm

It’s apostrophe s with a singular possessive and a bare apostrophe with a plural.

We’re going over to Lucas’s house. (Your son’s house)

We’re going over to the Lucas’ house. (The house of the family whose last name is Lucas)

6 Rosebud & Papoosie Girl March 5, 2008 at 4:49 pm

Well my last name (married one that is) ends in “s” and I never add the extra “s” it just looks so awkward. I much prefer what we are doing.

7 Fawn March 5, 2008 at 5:45 pm

NO NO NO! This drives me crazy! You ALWAYS use the ‘s to show possession after a word that is not plural. Yes, that means it is “Seamus’s”, “Donders’s”, and “Colpitts’s” (assuming the name is Colpitts to start).

(Trickier is how you pluralize these names: “We are the Donderses”? Or how about possessive on the plural: “Welcome to the Donderses’ house? LMAO)

I can’t remember the title of it, but there’s a spiral-bound book on writing standards (meant for Canadian writers) that I got in university, and the rule is clearly written in there. (That sounds pretty lame, doesn’t it? Dang, if I were at home, I’d pull it out. Oops, did I admit I’m at work? I’m having coffee.)

*sigh* I’m sure ther’ll be dissenting opinions. Perhaps it’s like the Oxford comma. Which, in my book, is totally required. ;P

8 Fawn March 5, 2008 at 5:50 pm

I just checked out the link in your post, Dani, and found my answer. It’s the Canadian MLA (Modern Language Association) Style Manual that I’m talking about. Whew!

9 Sara March 5, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Ultimate example to prove the old rule: “In Jesus’ name, amen.” Not “In Jesuses name….”

That said… I was raised by an English teacher who was of the “language changes over time and you can’t get snitty over antique rules, especially since the vast majority of the “rules” were invented in the early modern era by people who were trying to force English to conform to Latin grammatical rules.”

In other words: “No really, its okay to split an infinitive. Just because you physically can’t in frikken Latin doesn’t mean you shouldn’t in English.”

In OTHER other words: if people have always said “That’s Lucas’s toy! Give it back!” Then it should be spelled that way. Who says “That’s Lucas’ toy?”

However, the Oxford Comma is mandatory. I’m sorry, but half the time leaving it out makes the meaning of the sentence indistinct, and most speakers pause at least slightly at that point anyway. Up with commas!!

10 bubandpie March 5, 2008 at 6:41 pm

The rule – which I inculcate vigorously to all my students – is that you add the apostrophe ‘s’ no matter what your name ends with, unless you’re Jesus. Because he’s God.

11 Cakes March 5, 2008 at 6:59 pm

Yep. Always ‘s with a singular noun.
Jesus is the only one I know of and I can’t do it! It’s always Jesus’s for me. I can’t help it.

(And my Captcha Oracle says “guard laws”)

12 Theresa March 5, 2008 at 8:02 pm

I asked my mom about this particular example in an e-mail one time….never received an answer… have at it!!

“I have arranged for Ethan to go to Beckys (Uh I can’t figure out how to properly pluralize that! change the ‘y’ to ‘i’ and add ‘es’ seems wrong, but so does an apostrophe – HELP!)”

I didn’t even TRY to make it look right cuz nothing did look right!!!

P.S. oracle sez: wrenched brains!!!! hah!

13 Theresa March 5, 2008 at 8:29 pm

Please excuse the second post, but I couldn’t help myself! I am NOT a grammar geek…..I’m a grammar wanna-be (I-wanna-be-able-to-figure-out-how-to-use-proper-grammar!!) but…..

…..well, all of this talk of the Oxford comma led me to go figure out what is was. I almost fell off my seat! My GREATEST grammar pet peeve has now been SOLVED!!! I’ve always, always, had the very strong urge to put a comma before ‘and’ in a list……and usually give in and do it too, even though the teachers of my past whisper in my ear not to!!!

Finding out that this practice is quite acceptable is a huge relief! (Which in itself, even to me, sounds grammar geeky.) LOL! As you can probably tell, especially by my over use of exclamation points, I am closer to grammar-hopeless than grammar-geek……but one is always allowed to dream…eh???

14 Batman March 5, 2008 at 8:52 pm

As a writer of technical material, ministerial reports and correspondence, and general hullabaloo, I do not place an “s” after a word that ends in “s” apostrophe. I may be chastised for hanging on to the old ways but that is how I was educated.

15 cinnamon gurl March 5, 2008 at 8:59 pm

Strunk and White’s _The Elements of Style_ is unequivocal: indicate possession on a singular noun with apostrophe s. The only exception to this are names like Jesus or Moses. People at my work have decided to follow our chosen style guide (Gregg’s), which contravenes White’s directive, but I still always use apostrophe s because it looks unfinished to leave a singular noun hanging with an apostrophe but no s.

16 Palluxo! March 5, 2008 at 10:10 pm

The correct use would be “Lucas’ breakfast” not “Lucas’s breakfast.”

17 Cait March 6, 2008 at 9:02 am

I would use Lucas’s breakfast, but that may just be bcs I’m part of a younger generation, and therefore inherently sloppy!

18 Sue March 6, 2008 at 9:34 am

I learned the same rule that you did Dani. Grammar rule changes are really difficult for me to get my head around!

For me, it isn’t so bad when it is written. I can deal with “Jesus’s” AS LONG AS IT IS SILENT. (sorry, shouting…)

It makes me want to scream when I hear preachers or lay leaders say “Jesuses” – ugh. Just ugh.

19 Mad Hatter March 6, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Lucas is like Jesus and Moses so, uh, no additional “s”. IMHO.

20 kgirl March 6, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I’m afraid the rule is that if it’s a possessive, it gets the ‘s. It don’t always look pretty, but it’s correct.

Even for Jesus, Moses and Lucas.

And fawn, I’m with you on the Oxford comma.

21 dean dad March 7, 2008 at 8:43 am

Unforgivably late, I know, but I’m with Catherine on this one. Lucas’ implies that Lucas is plural. Lucas’s makes it clear that Lucas is singular.

Lucas is singular. In a good way.

Leave a Comment

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: