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Nouns: compound and possessive forms Apostrophe s Possessive forms express the idea of ‘having’ (in a very general sense) which exists between two nouns. We normally use a possessive (+ ’s) when something belongs to a particular person or thing, e.g. a person, an animal, an organization, group of people, or a place. I borrowed my father’s car. I trod on the cat’s tail. The company’s head office is in New York. The government’s decision to raise taxes has not been well received. Zalacain is one of Madrid’s most famous restaurants. With places we can also say, e.g. Zalacain is one of the most famous restaurants in Madrid.

Nouns: compound and possessive forms Apostrophe s If a name (or singular noun) finishes in s, we either add ’s, e.g. Chris’s book or put an apostrophe at the end of the word, e.g. Chris’ book. It’s Chris’s book. With plural nouns we put the apostrophe after the s, e.g. friends’. It’s my friends’ wedding. With irregular plurals which don’t end in s (people, children, men, etc.) we add ’s. That’s the children’s room. If there are two people, we put the ’s on the second name. The blonde girl is Alex and Maria’s daughter. When ’s refers to ‘the house of’ or ‘the shop of’, we often omit the word house or shop. We had dinner at Tom’s last night. My mother is at the hairdresser’s.

Nouns: compound and possessive forms Using of (instead of apostrophe s) We normally use an of phrase, not ’s, with things or abstract nouns, especially when one thing is part of another. Can you remember the name of the film? My brother lives at the end of the road. The problems of old age are many and varied. We use of to express possession with a long phrase, e.g. NOT my cousin in Rome I told you about’s sister. Helen is the sister of my cousin in Rome I told you about. With friend, we often say a friend of + name/noun + ’s. Jim is a friend of my brother’s.

Nouns: compound and possessive forms Compound nouns We use compound nouns, not possessive forms, to refer to people or things in terms of what they are for, what they are made of, what work they do, or what kind they are. The second noun is the main thing or person, and can be singular or plural. The first noun gives more information about the second noun. It is usually singular, unless it has no singular form, e.g. clothes shop. tin opener = an opener for tins history teacher = a teacher of history I need the tin opener. Do you know where it is? I bought a huge flower pot in a garden centre near my house. My brother is a company director and my sister is a history teacher. I opened the car door, got in, and put on my seat belt. ! Compound nouns are usually two separate words, but they are occasionally joined together as one word, e.g. sunglasses, bathroom or hyphenated, e.g. house-husband, letter-box.

Nouns: compound and possessive forms Compound nouns With containers, a compound noun (a wine bottle) focuses on the container (usually empty), whereas the container + a possessive noun (a bottle of wine) focuses on the contents (the container is usually full). There was a wine bottle on the table and two empty wine glasses. Other common examples are: a wine glass a glass of wine a jam jar a jar of jam a petrol can a can of petrol a matchbox a box of matches etc.

Possessive forms and compounds  
Possessive forms and compounds  

Presentation for B2 ESL learners about the use of possessive forms and how to make compound nouns. Source: English File. OUP