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    #1

    's / s'

    Possessives are always a headache for me and some natives say that they are not always sure as well.

    E.g. why reader's digest but boys' school? Why can't it be readers' digest and boy's school?

    Are there any rules for these possessives? Thanks

  1. emsr2d2's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: 's / s'

    I could make an argument for both "Readers' Digest" and "Reader's Digest" and to be honest, without Googling it, I couldn't tell you which one the publication uses. The plural suggests the many readers of the magazine and the singular could be said to make each reader feel much more individual by referring to them as "you, the reader".

    However, "boys' school" makes far more sense. You don't have a school with just one pupil, who happens to be male. The school is attended by "boys" so it is a school "for boys" so it is a "boys' school".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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    #3

    Re: 's / s'

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedwonny View Post
    Some natives say that they are not always sure as well.


    ***** NOT A TEACHER *****

    So true, Tedwonny.

    Here is an example that drives me crazy:

    Visitor: I have some questions about this place.

    Employee: No problem, sir. The _____ center is on the second floor. They will be happy to help you with any questions.

    I have seen it spelled as:

    1. visitors'

    2. visitor's

    3. visitors

    4. visitor

    *****

    a. According to the traditional rules, the "correct" answer is #1. A center for visitors.
    b. Some people think that it means a center to help any visitor. Thus, #2.
    c. Americans do not like unnecessary apostrophes. So they simply drop the apostrophe as unnecessary. Thus, #3. (I admit that it does look cleaner that way, don't you?)
    d. And #4 shows that some people feel there is no need for an unnecessary "s." So they simply use the word "visitor" as an adjective.

    *****

    It appears that the "rule" is: the particular business, organization, publication, etc. decides how it wants to spell its name.

    By the way, maybe "Reader's Digest" is more personal than "Readers' Digest." That is, "Reader's Digest" might imply something like: this is a digest of interesting articles for a reader like you; "Readers' Digest" [the so-called "correct" form] might be considered less personal.



    James

    P.S. I do think, however, that most teachers would be upset if you wrote "boy's restroom" [toilet] instead of the "boys' restroom," but I suspect that most people would simply write it as the "boys restroom."
    Last edited by TheParser; 11-Aug-2014 at 11:41. Reason: misspelling

  2. Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: 's / s'

    Hi, Tedwonny -

    Great question. This is just one big gray area!

    There are few rules but many exceptions to the question of apostrophes and possessives. Many times, more than one answer is correct. Farmers market, farmer's market, and farmers' market are all used and all mean exactly the same thing: a place where food growers meet to sell their produce directly to consumers.

    The usual rules (often broken!) for American English are that when something belongs to one person or thing, we use 's, and when something belongs to more, we use either s' or s's, depending on whether the second s is pronounced.

    So for farmers market, I personally don't use an apostrophe anywhere, because the farmers don't actually own the market, and possessives are about possession!

    I really like what The Parser wrote: By the way, maybe "Reader's Digest" is more personal than "Readers' Digest." That is, "Reader's Digest" might imply something like: this is a digest of interesting articles for a reader like you; "Readers' Digest" [the so-called "correct" form] might be considered less personal.

    Here's a letter I wrote to the editor of my local newspaper recently. All the holidays and publications mentioned are real. It will give you an idea of how confusing the apostrophe question gets:

    http://www.centralmaine.com/2014/05/...cause_celebre/

    (Many Americans feel that the movement of American factories to China and other countries has helped cause unemployment here, and the local paper often talks about the issue.)
    Last edited by Charlie Bernstein; 11-Aug-2014 at 03:49.

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