Possible Duplicates:
What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in s?
Pronouncing possessive words that already end in s

How do I pronounce possessives that end with the awkward "s's" and "'s"? Examples:

I found the mistress's attitude ridiculous

These are the eggs' shells.

Which coat is Amos'?


You pronounce the extra syllable when it's warranted:

... the mistress[es]

... Amos[es]

but with this one you don't:

... the eggs shells [or just eggshells]

  • Yeah, it's like the pronounciation of synapses. – Alenanno Apr 27 '11 at 22:19
  • 5
    I think there is a difference (an audible s) between eggs' shells" and *eggshells – Henry Apr 27 '11 at 22:56
  • I think there's a semantic difference too. You wouldn't often refer to eggs' shells, obviously. But if you wanted to, at least your audience would know what you said, if not what you meant. – FumbleFingers Apr 28 '11 at 0:28
  • 1
    ..unless you are Gollum – JeffSahol Apr 28 '11 at 18:45

Always pronounce the "possessive 's" unless that would be a real tongue-twister.

So if a man with two mistresses wanted to speak of things he'd given to both of them, I'd advise him to drop the 's, rather than try to pronounce mistresses's with a straight face!

Okay, some people might then think he only had one mistress. But that might even be an advantage - if one of the mistressess overheard him talking about the gift[s], for example.

  • @Bogdan Lataianu: Ok, so why not give an example of a case where you think a reasonable and careful speaker would seriously attempt to either write or enunciate three consecutive s's in order to include the possessive. Admittedly my particular case was light-hearted, but that was partly to show how ridiculous things get if people slavishly stick to 'rules' in inappropriate circumstances. – FumbleFingers May 1 '11 at 2:04
  • @Bogdan Lataianu: Thank you for the reappraisal, and for what looks like an Answer worth posting. May you be an asset to EL&U, as it to you. (read with sufficient aplomb and gravitas, I assure you that's good English !-) – FumbleFingers May 2 '11 at 22:39
  • @Bogdan Lataianu: Thanks anyway, but this question is now closed and merged. I don't think you could change a vote even if I edit the answer, and I don't think votes on closed Q's count for 'reputation' anyway. But I'm not bothered about points - I don't know how to exercise the privileges I've already got! – FumbleFingers May 11 '11 at 1:41

Individual words broken up by • for emphasis that each word should be spoken separately. •• indicates an intake of breath may be appropriate after saying this, as a way to force yourself to say it correctly.

I found the mistress's attitude ridiculous

I • found • the • mistresses •• attitude • ridiculous.

I presume that there are more than one mistress in reference here, which is also an oddity. I would consider this at best an exercise, and not a regular occurrence. More of a literary device for reading, than for pronunciation.

These are the eggs' shells.

These • are • the • eggs •• shells.

It's important to remember which is which, the shells need to be differentiated from the eggs, so put that extra (yet brief) pause in there.

Which coat is Amos'?

Which • coat • is • Amos? [pronounce the same as if it didn't have the apostrophe]

But note that this is not common usage, so I don't foresee this really coming up often. Mostly only as an exercise.

If it would be beneficial for me to put an IPA pronunciation under each word, say so and I shall do so.

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