I'm taking a classics class, and we're currently reading Lombardo's translation of the Iliad. It strikes me incredibly odd how possessive and plural nouns are formed:

The met by the ancient oak tree. / Lord Apollo, Zeus' son, spoke first (7.15-16)

The professor of the class says, for the purposes of our paper, to always use an " 's " to clarify the possessive form of the noun, even if the noun ends in an s.

Achilles's love of battle...

Just to make things perfectly clear, the way that I understand usage:

  • Single: "Greek" or "Achilles"
  • Plural: "Greeks" or "Achilles" (For more than one Achilles, we have to infer plurality)
  • Single Possessive: "Greek's" or "Achilles's"
  • Plural Possessive: "Greeks'" or "Achilles'" (Once again, for something belonging to more than one Achilles, we have to infer plurality in the sentence)

    And the pronunciation, as I understand it, is as follows:

  • Single: "Greek" or "Achilles"
  • Plural: "Greek-s" or "Achilles-s"
  • Single Possessive: "Greek-s" or "Achilles-es"
  • Plural Possessive: "Greeks" or "Achilles-es"

Am I completely off base here, I'm so confused. Can someone shed some light on this?


There is no agreement about this. I try to approximate the punctuation as closely as possible to the pronunciation and so would write «Achilles’s». In the context of Greek literature there is unlikely to be any need to speak of things belonging to more than one Achilles.

  • I wonder whether some people pronounce the possessive of Achilles the same as the regular version. – tchrist Sep 14 '13 at 15:15
  • 1
    @tchrist yup, I would, just like I would Greeks', Achilles-es sounds downright strange to me. Are you guys telling me I'm in the minority? Oddly enough, if I were to pronounce the Greek version of the name while speaking English, I would say Achilleas-es so admittedly I am not being very consistent here. – terdon Sep 14 '13 at 15:16
  • @tchrist I am not alone either, both the American and British pronunciations cited here speak the possessive like the name. See also here. – terdon Sep 14 '13 at 15:22
  • This Brit would pronounce the alternative possessives Achilles' and Achilles's as they are spelled. Both are correct, although the first is perhaps more literary. – Andrew Leach Sep 14 '13 at 16:07

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