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How to Make the Word PEOPLE Possessive

Are you wondering how to make the word people possessive? It’s not that hard, but it does deserve a quick explanation.

Making the word "people" possessive isn't hard, but a lot of people get it wrong. Make sure you're right with this helpful information.

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” 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.

Make sense?

More grammar posts you may like:

Your welcome or You’re welcome?

Bias or Biased?

Do to or Due to?

Less or Fewer?

Should have gone or Should have went?

If you’re looking for helpful grammar resources, here are my top picks:

Grammarly – Instantly fix over 250 types of errors with this free web-based grammar checker!

Strunk & White Elements of Style

The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation 

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation 

The Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Steve

Tuesday 20th of April 2021

Except half of the other top Google results disagree with you and prescribe an apostrophe after the "S" for "people" so who is correct? If you would at least provide some resources we could figure out who to trust. As someone who just got here via search engine, I'm forced to either take your word for it or trust some other website I'm not familiar with.

Sandra

Saturday 12th of December 2015

Can hardly believe you said "revert back"! Surely revert doesn't need back?

Frank Bernhardt

Tuesday 30th of June 2015

Dear Michel,

I always have had problems with the word people in the next phrases:

There is too many people in this room

or

There are too many people in this room

Please could you help me here.

Thanks

Berndt

Michelle Marine

Tuesday 30th of June 2015

Hi Berndt, the correct phrase is There ARE too many people in this room. :-) People is plural so it takes a plural verb. Michelle

fred

Friday 23rd of January 2015

Does the rule of "s" apply when making the word "peoples" possessive?

Definition: the men, women, and children of a particular nation, community, or ethnic group. Usage: "the native peoples of Canada" Possessive usage(?)? "The Canadian native peoples' prerogative is to support the native peoples of Canada."

Michelle Marine

Monday 26th of January 2015

Hi Fred, I think your example with the possessive is correct in the case you describe: The Canadian native peoples' prerogative. Yes. :-)

Niall

Thursday 27th of March 2014

Perfect, thanks a million, I was getting a migraine trying to figure this out!

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As an Amazon Associate Michelle Marine, SimplifyLiveLove, earns from qualifying purchases.