Friday, 7 October 2011

Saxon Genitive: Steve Jobs's or Steve Jobs'?

I was surprised, to say the least, to see this on Twitter yesterday.

I immediately responded with this tweet.

The apostrophe 's to denote possession is also known as 'Saxon genitive', which originated from Anglo-Saxon, also known as Old English. The fact that English is the only language to use this form of spelling makes it difficult for learners. The purpose of this post is not, however, to explain the rules governing the use of the possessive 's. For that, I'd suggest looking at your favourite grammar book.

Here, I'd just like to touch on the spelling bit.

Singular noun not ending in '-s'

This is straightforward. We just add 's to a singular noun.

my wife's bicycle
my friend's computer
Max's mobile phone
Spain's economic crisis

Regular plural nouns

This is also straightforward. We add the apostrophe at the end.

their sons' school
her parents' business
the girls' boyfriends

Irregular plurals

These get an 's just like singular nouns.

the children's video games
women's rights
people's choice

Nouns ending with -s

Here, we can either add 's or just an apostrophe at the end. It is said that adding 's is a more common procedure. Some follow the rule of adding 's if it's a singular noun and only ' if it's a plural noun.

Charles' wife OR Charles's wife
Steve Jobs' death OR Steve Jobs's death
Doris' iPad or Doris's iPad

It is worth pointing out the pronunciation rules though. The ending '-s is pronounced just as in that of plurals.

Alice's /ˈælɪsɪz/
Jobs's /ˈdʒɑːbzɪz/
St. James's Park /seɪnt ˈdʒeɪmzɪz pɑːk /
Socrates' /ˈsɒkrətiːziz/



  1. I'm glad you responded, or else I would've! Lol. In grammar, there is often more than one way to do something, which is good because people like different things (of course). In this case, I'd opt for Jobs' over Jobs's any day.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Lauren, in spite of the problems you had! :-) It's interesting that you prefer Jobs', as I do. I thought I'm just being old-fashioned, haha!

  3. Lol. I prefer Jobs' because Jobs's sounds...colloquial to me, unrefined. Not to sound judgmental of those who prefer the latter! Haha, but yes.

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