How to Make the Word PEOPLE Possessive


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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

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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    1. As a software developer, I use that “technique” to pluralize some technical acronyms and terms that should not themselves be modified.Say for example I have multiple variables in a function using RAII and I want to reference them as “the RAII’s” (instead of “the RAII variables”) I would use the apostrophe.

  1. Highly doubtful. But there may be some very few times, perhaps involving acronyms? What do you think?

  2. I always enjoy your grammar lessons. Child/children would pose the same situation, I guess.
    With making a noun plural, the question I always have is with our friends' last name, MacInnes. How does one properly make that plural when addressing something to the MacInneses/MacInnes'/etc. I usually just opt for writing The MacInnes Family. Some things just stump me.

  3. Rachel,
    You are correct. Any word that ends in s (whether plural or not), would just need an apostrophe at the end to make it plural. Names are always challenging. I like your solution to add the word Family! I do not think you should add an apostrophe to make a name that ends in -S plural. You would ad -es. Here is a website that addresses your question:

    Hope you are having a lovely day in CO! 🙂

  4. The rule really does make it clear. Sometimes just saying the word with the “s” helps make it clear too (also?). Help me out!

    1. 🙂 I’m not sure what you mean by saying the word with the S. It seems to me that it should be obvious. Either the word is plural. OR it is possessive. Add an apostrophe if it’s not plural. Right? 😉

  5. I agree with Rachel. People have the same problem with the words “children” and “women”.

  6. 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.”

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

  7. Dear Michel,

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

    There is too many people in this room


    There are too many people in this room

    Please could you help me here.



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

  8. 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.