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

Possible Duplicate:
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?

Which one is correct?
I thought the latter would be correct but apparently the former is always used; why?


Another (confusing) example: Charles'(s?) law

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by tchrist, TimLymington, Mitch, Will Hunting, J.R. Nov 26 '12 at 9:12

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.

Either this is General Reference, because you can simply look up what actually form is used, or else it is a dupe of one or another of the fifty-seven previous questions about how to form the possessive of nouns ending in a sibilant in English. – tchrist Nov 25 '12 at 21:08
@tchrist: Do you really think I didn't look at the Wikipedia article before posting this? (Or to put it another way -- what do you think brought up this question for me in the first place?!) And regarding the fifty-seven previous questions: how many of them are actually regarding possessive nouns ending with a soft "es"? A lot of those don't quite cover this case; I didn't happen to come across any that did myself, so I posted this. The question you marked as a dupe only barely covers this... knowing that "boss's" is correct doesn't quite answer this question -- it's a hard s & more obvious. – Mehrdad Nov 25 '12 at 21:14
@Merhdad I cannot understand what your question is which is not already answered, including in the possible dup listed above. We have dealt with this a million times before. – tchrist Nov 25 '12 at 21:20
@tchrist: I'm not saying it's not already answered -- I'm just saying that, contrary to your comment, of the 57 questions you mentioned, the only one I've seen (so far) that mentions this case is the dupe you just marked (since they mention "Jones’s")... the rest of them, as far as I have seen so far, are talking about slightly different situations. As for the dupe, I admittedly didn't come across it until you mentioned it. But yes, your answer on the dupe does seem to cover it, so this is indeed a dupe. It's just that your comment implied I posted this carelessly, which I hadn't. – Mehrdad Nov 25 '12 at 21:28

If Bayes had discovered it today, we might call it Bayes's theorem, pronounced baizes to rhyme with mazes. However, Thomas Bayes lived in the 18th century, and the theorem was published in 1763. I believe that before the 20th century, the rules for pronouncing possessives may have been slightly different (this isn't completely standardized; different people still treat the pronunciation of possessives like Jones'(s) differently today), so we call it Bayes' theorem, pronounced bays to rhyme with maze. Note that in the Wikipedia article I linked to they use Bayes's death, but Bayes' theorem.

The earliest reference I can find in Google books to Bayes' rule (1854) spells it Bayes's. However, it seems that when it became widely discussed in the early 1900s with increased investigation of probability, it was generally referred to as Bayes'.

This Ngram shows that before around 1900, Charles's was the dominant spelling, but after 1900, Charles' became more common.

share|improve this answer
Not sure I buy the 1763 thing... would that make it Charles's or Charles'? – Mehrdad Nov 25 '12 at 20:57
Actually, after a little more searching, I don't buy it either. The most prevalent form seems to be Bayes's (usually applied to some other Mr. Bayes) from 1600 through 1900. I think Charles's behaves differently because it's nearly counts as two syllables. – Peter Shor Nov 25 '12 at 22:01

You will find many grammarians who tell you that if the noun ends in s and is singular, an 's is still used. This is disputable, as per this wikipedia discussion:

If a singular noun ends with an s-sound (spelt with -s, -se, for example), practice varies as to whether to add 's or the apostrophe alone. A widely accepted practice is to follow whichever spoken form is judged better: the boss's shoes, Mrs Jones' hat (or Mrs Jones's hat, if that spoken form is preferred). In many cases, both spoken and written forms differ between writers.

My best advice is: be consistent.

share|improve this answer
Not the answer I was hoping for... but it's the most consistent with the evidence so far, haha. =P +1 – Mehrdad Nov 25 '12 at 20:57
Grammarians are immaterial. Simply listen to what people say, then write that down. See here. – tchrist Nov 25 '12 at 20:58
@tchrist, then we could absolutely exclude the exisistence, in the present or in the past, of deaf-mute grammarians. Or not? – user19148 Nov 25 '12 at 21:42
@Carlo_R. - not if you are a Bayesian, although you could weight you prior estimate against it – mgb Nov 25 '12 at 21:51
Obligatory link: xkcd.com/1132 – Mehrdad Nov 25 '12 at 22:50

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