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So, I develop for a company that does workplace-surveys. And one of our report-formats has just been translated into English. And with it a description on how to read the reports. This description contains the following sentence

When historical reporting is included, the column for this year's survey will be thinner, and the column for last year will appear behind it in grey.

Is this the correct spelling of year's in this context? I'm not a native English speaker/writer, but I do consider myself fluent, and this spelling tickled something in the back of my brain.

If it matters, the report format only displays a maximum of two years at a time (this year, and last year).

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes, it is.

You would use years when talking about more than one year with no possessive involvement:

It had been years since I last thought about her.

We have been arguing over the same point for more than twenty years now.

Between the years 1914 and 1918, Newfoundland lost an entire generation of young men to an unspeakable horror that was supposed to be the war to end all wars.

You would use years' when talking about more than one year in a possessive sense:

We agreed to review our agreement in five years' time.

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+1 Right answer. Also worth noting that, since the word "this" can only apply to a singular, "this year's" is the only possible punctuation of this phrase in any context [barring occasions where the two words happen to be together by coincidence, for instance "If only I'd known this years ago"]. – psmears Feb 25 '11 at 9:25

Yes, it is.

Year's means what belongs to the year.
Years means more than one year, but not what belongs to them.
Years' means what belongs to a group of more than one year.

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Correct, sort of. Possessive adjectives do not always imply belonging per se. I would not say that the survey "belongs" to the year. Possessive adjectives replace the word "of." So "the year's" instead means, "of the year," but it is placed before the noun rather than after it. – Adrian W Mar 14 '15 at 6:14

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