English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

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

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.

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
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

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

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

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