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Section 11.1.4


A noun that possesses another noun is placed before the noun it possesses and is followed by the possessive ending.

Boole's book, An Investigation into the Laws of Thought, is a classic study in symbolic logic. [singular possession]

The animals' responses fell into a clear pattern. [plural possession]

Do not use the possessive ending to express the simple plural.


Atom's containing the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons are different forms, or isotopes, of the same element.


Atoms containing the same number of protons but different numbers of neutrons are different forms, or isotopes, of the same element.

--"Atom," The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia

To form the possessive case of plural nouns ending in -s, add only an apostrophe. To form the possessive case of nouns that have irregular plurals, add -'s. See Apostrophe.

Puffins' large bills are adapted for carrying several fish at once.

--"Puffin," The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia (modified)

Despite protozoa's small size and lack of multicellular organization, they carry on all the metabolic functions of higher animals: digestion, excretion, respiration, and coordination of movement.

--"Protozoan," The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia

If the possessor noun consists of more than one word or if there is joint possession, add -'s to the last word of the possessor.

Leslie C. Perelman, Edward Barrett, and James Paradis's Mayfield Handbook of Technical and Scientific Writing is readily available.

If, however, possession is separate, follow both possessor's names with the possessive form.

Leslie C. Perelman's and Edward Barrett's views are similar.

If the possessor noun is a personal pronoun, use the possessive case form of the personal pronoun. See Pronoun Case.

The patients in whom the technique was successful improved their professional effectiveness and social ease.

--"Anal Dynamic Graciloplasty in the Treatment of Intractable Fecal Incontinence," New England Journal of Medicine (modified)

Use the possessive ending with nouns that are the subjects of gerunds.

Modern society's altering the hydrology of the Everglades has profoundly affected the ecology of the region.

--Norman Boucher, "Back to the Everglades," Technology Review (modified)

Traditionally, the possessive ending has been restricted to human or animate nouns, and nonanimate possessors have been expressed in an of-phrase following the noun that was possessed. Some readers continue to prefer that this distinction be made.

Mercury's diameter is 4878 kilometers.

The diameter of Mercury is 4878 kilometers.

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