Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Stumbled upon The Case For Mitt Romney:

So far, under Obama, private sector job growth has vastly outpaced the public sector. And the big public unions, like the teachers', have been directly challenged.

I couldn't wrap my head around the apostrophe used after teachers— marked in bold. So, is there anything implied that I don't see or is this a type of apostrophe that I am not aware of?

share|improve this question
It's possessive. The union belongs to the teachers. If a bunch of engineers own a blue car, you can say "... the blue cars, like the engineers', ...". –  David Schwartz Nov 5 '12 at 8:25
add comment

closed as general reference by J.R., Mehper C. Palavuzlar, F'x, StoneyB, Andrew Leach Nov 5 '12 at 13:52

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

These examples show the various distinct possibilities, and should clarify what is going on.

  • Whose car is that? It belongs to them. It’s their car. It’s theirs.
  • Whose car is that? It belongs to our teacher. It’s our teacher’s car. It’s our teacher’s.
  • Whose lounge is that? It belongs to those teachers. It’s those teachers’ lounge. It’s those teachers’.
share|improve this answer
add comment

public unions, like the teachers'

This refers to the public unions of the teachers.

Teachers is plural; under the usual rules, the normal possessive form would be teachers's — which contracts to omit the second s.

This is a common contraction for possessive plurals.

share|improve this answer
You need to be very careful about saying the "normal" form is teachers's and that's contracted to teachers', because contractions can be expanded without damage. *Teachers's is wrong and not normal. –  Andrew Leach Nov 5 '12 at 7:19
I did say would be not is. But is that better? –  Andrew Nov 5 '12 at 7:25
The contraction you describe happened in Middle English, and -- because it can no longer be expanded and remain correct -- can't be thought of as a contraction now. It's now the normative form and to describe the pre-Middle English form as "usual" and "normal" isn't right. Better to get rid of the last two paragraphs altogether. –  Andrew Leach Nov 5 '12 at 8:00
add comment

Plural nouns that end in "s" usually only get the apostrophe instead of apostrophe + "s". (Apostrophe + "s" are used for singular possesive nouns that do not end in "s", such as as "dog's" tail.) Plural nouns that do not end in "s" get the apostrophe + "s" as in "men's" and "children's".

These rules are explained very well on this site:


share|improve this answer
add comment

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.