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When did it become correct to add an ‘s’ to a singular possessive already ending in ‘s’?
Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe?

My name is Greg — this is Greg 's post.

If my name ended with an 's', I am aware of the proper apostrophe usage (James → James'), but how should this be pronounced?

Phonetically, am I Jameses best friend or James best friend?

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marked as duplicate by RegDwigнt Nov 8 '12 at 15:41

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

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Benjol's right. See @nohat's excellent answer here: english.stackexchange.com/questions/2964/… (It's also a model for how to absolutely nail an answer on EL&U.) –  Robusto Jun 29 '11 at 12:56
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No one seems to be addressing the question of how to pronounce "James'". Instead I see debates of whether it should be "James'" or "James's" and answers of how to pronounce "James's". I don't know the answer, but I think all of the people who have answered are missing the point of the question. –  Russell Poirier Jun 30 '11 at 22:29
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Actually this question is backwards. Spoken language is primary; written language follows. James' can only be pronounced "James"; if it were pronounced "Jameses" it would be spelled James's. See Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe? –  RegDwigнt Nov 8 '12 at 15:38

4 Answers 4

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James' [z] best friend

sounds better. If this is the right form, then according to this thread, [z] would apply:

In the suffix -(e)s, indicative of the plural of a noun, the possessive case of a noun, or the 3rd. person singular past tense of a verb, the -s is read:

  • voiceless, [s], when it comes after a voiceless consonant...

    cats, tracks, boots, walks, etc.

  • and voiced, [z], when it comes after a voiced consonant or a vowel.

    dogs, cars, skies, keys, days, etc.

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the second part of your answer, after "If this is the right form" does not answer the question. @Greg asked specifically about possessive words that end up in "s". –  Theta30 Apr 30 '11 at 20:02
    
I think it's a bit more than just James'[z] sounds better. Any other pronunciation is just plain wrong, regardless of debate over the correct written form. –  FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 2:34
    
Why would you pronounce letters that aren't in the word? Shouldn't "James'" be pronounced the same as "James"? –  Russell Poirier Jun 30 '11 at 22:26
    
@RussellPoirier: I would suggest the proper pronunciation of "James'" would be two syllables: "Jame" and "z". No extra "letters", but not the same as the non-possessive "James". –  supercat Jan 8 at 18:44

The pronunciation of the suffix "s" added for a possessive can have three forms: [s],[z] or [iz].
The rules for pronunciation are the same as for the plural. You have:

  • [s] Nick's Pope's Stuart's (voiceless consonant before s)

  • [z] Laura's Greg's Tom's (voiced consonant or vowel before s)

  • [iz] Travis's , Buzz's , princess's, coach's (when the singular words end up in "s","z" or fricatives such as "sh", "ch","ge")

Source: The pronunciation of English, Charles Kreidler

Note: Only the singular words add the possessive "s". The absence of possessive "s" after a plural is for the ease of pronunciation, as exemplified below.
If a man with two mistresses wanted to speak of things he'd given to both of them, I'd advise him to drop the 's, rather than try to pronounce mistresses's with a straight face!
Okay, some hearers might then think he only had one mistress. But that might even be an advantage - if one of the mistressess overheard him talking about the gift[s], for example.

The possessive s is dropped from writing in many contexts, but there's no universal agreement about exactly which. Take James's, where quite a few people drop that last s in writing. But very few people would fail to pronounce it - especially not parents of James! Unless maybe if they're talking about James's essay, for example. Even then I would think it slightly odd to drop the s because it's not that hard to say. YMMD, of course.

However, if the possessive is not added, so we have only James', the word is pronounced (in careful speech) exactly as if it were by itself. In other words, the possessive doesn't make a difference.
(the above answer was merged from the ones provided by FumbleFingers and Bogdan Lataianu)

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For what it's worth, I've moved my Answer over here (after tweaking it a bit). You've clearly identified the three different sounds used to indicate the possessive, so yours is a good Answer at that level. My Answer doesn't conflict, since I'm only addressing the matter of if and when it's ever correct to pronounce nothing at all. Of course, we could always combine our Answers and say there are four different sounds - it just so happens that one of them doesn't make any noise! It's not that daft - in database programming we say that 0 is a value (but NULL isn't !-) –  FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 2:30
    
@FumbleFingers You are talking about when "s" is silent in possesive. Since you talk about "we could always combine our answers" I suggest to really do it-that is to merge our answers into one. We can make two parts: spoken "s" and silent "s". What do you think? Thanks –  Theta30 May 15 '11 at 11:26
    
Okay, I've added my text into yours. I don't seem to be able to actually delete my answer though, so I've just edited it down. –  FumbleFingers May 15 '11 at 15:00
    
I believe this is nearly correct. There is no distinction in pronunciation between the plural, the possessive, and the possessive of a plural. So dogs, dog's, and dogs' are all pronounced the same. If the singular ends with an s, z, sh, zh, ch or j sound, however, you add /ɪz/ in the plural pronunciation, as you say. You wouldn't say dogziz even though this isn't any harder to pronounce than James's. –  Peter Shor May 15 '11 at 15:29
    
@Peter Shor: Ooops! Forgot that! Thanks for picking us up there! –  FumbleFingers May 16 '11 at 0:59

I am not an English major, but I'm quite literate, and literal as well. My son's name is James. I am far from ordinary, and have never been, so this comes as no surprise... "very few people would fail to pronounce it — especially not parents of James!"

I do not pronounce possession with regard to my son's name ending in an 'iz'. Someone, somewhere, recognized that there wasn't to be an s after the apostrophe, because there's already one s there, and that if your son's name is James, putting an iz on the end of it is like nails on a chalk board.

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First, "James's" is the correct possessive. The exception to non-plural words ending in "s" taking the "'s" if for biblical names like "Jesus'" and "Moses'" for the sole reason that the grammatical rules were only standardized after the bible was translated in English and the grammarians preferred to make an exception than to suggest the bible was grammatically incorrect. And that only applies to the biblical character, so my Mexican neighbor Jesus's car takes the "'s". And that only applies to biblical characters if you are religious and overly respectful.

Second, no one seemed to notice the two mistresses example is mistaken. "Mistresses" is plural, thus the "'s" is replaced by the "'" alone: My mistresses' assets.

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This answer contains unsupported statements, and can be improved by citing facts or references which support them. The connection you draw to piety (unwillingness to correct the KJV) is interesting and I would love to see some factual support for it. –  MετάEd Sep 11 '12 at 12:29
    
I think I can add something to the second part of this answer. The example is not mistaken because the author plays on the fact that "mistresses'" and "mistress's" would end up having the same pronounciation but in one case meaning that the mistress is one and then likely leading to disappointment of the other one of the two. But perhaps I got it wrong myself. –  user30591 Nov 8 '12 at 15:04

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