I happened to glance at an inscribed stone a while back at the local elementary school. I’ve looked at this stone many, many times before. This time I looked a little closer:
” Touched peoples’ lives.”
At first I thought, “How nice. They used an apostrophe.” The college students in my Comp I classes have a terrible time with apostrophes. They use them to make words plural (rarely a good idea) and then forget them when they need to make words possessive. Is it that hard to tell when a word should be possessive or when it’s plural? Maybe someone can tell me so I can better help my Comp I students.
Then I looked again. PEOPLES’. Oh. No. Really?! ?Adding the apostrophe AFTER the -s on the word PEOPLE is WRONG. If you’re confused by how to make the word PEOPLE possessive, read on.
How to Make the Word PEOPLE Possessive
To make a singular noun possessive, the rule is to add apostrophe s: The dog’s bone was missing.
To make a plural noun possessive (if it ends in -s), the rule is to add an apostrophe (after the -s). The cats’ paws were covered in dirt.
So, what’s up with people? PEOPLE is a plural noun, but it does not end in -s, because it is one of those irregular nouns (like geese, children, women etc). We don’t make it plural by adding an s because it is already plural. To make it possessive, revert back to the rule for singular nouns: add apostrophe -s.
The stone should say: “Touched people’s lives.”
Here’s a better way to look at this issue:
1. If the word you wish to make possessive ends in an “s,” regardless of it is plural or not, add ONLY an apostrophe (after the -s).
2. If the word does NOT end in -s, add apostrophe ‘s.
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