I saw some sign boards in a hospital which had the following description:

  1. Patients' Lifts
  2. Consultants' Payments

As far as I know, the above signs should read Patient's Lifts or Patient Lifts and the same rule applies to the #2 sign.

Please correct me if I am wrong and I welcome your valuable ideas.

  • 2
    The apostrophised forms indicating singular ownership (etc) would be incorrect. The given forms are traditionally correct. Using a singular attributive noun here with (1) (Patient Lifts) would possibly be avoided (not as incorrect, but as sounding too comical for a hospital). // There is a move today towards dropping apostrophes from Saxon genitives showing association rather than true ownership. Thus Birmingham Dogs Home, Hayes Working Mens Club, We got our children's shirts from the childrens clothing department at Barrows. This licenses Patients Lifts. Sep 13, 2014 at 7:47

2 Answers 2


The answer to your question is this: the apostrophe shows ownership, and it comes after the 's' when the plural form of the word ends in 's'. Your examples could be re-worded as 'the lifts of the patients' (plural, meaning all patients). If the apostrophe was before the 's', it would mean 'the lifts of the patient' (singular, meaning one patient). If the plural of the word does not end in 's', eg, 'children' as the plural of 'child', the possessive form would be 'children's'. If you use the re-wording trick and the re-worded version does not make sense, then your apostrophe is probably in the wrong place. I hope this helps.


The form "Patient Lifts" would be correct, as in this case "patient" is an adjective indicating the type of lift (not ownership). That is, it's for lifting patients, not cargo.

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