How do we write the possessive form for "people?" For instance, let's say that I manage money for other people. The people are individuals, here, not a collective (a people).

Which is correct, and why?

I manage other people's money.


I manage other peoples' money.

Edit 1

I suppose the fine line would show itself if I were to say,

I manage a people's money.

Then "people" becomes a singular collective. This is not the case for my question. In general, 's seems to be used in singular possessive cases and s' in plural possessive cases. "People," as used here, is a true plural, which would imply the use of s', but that looks odd.

  • 1
    People is the plural, so then the possessions of the people would be the people's possessions. See this Link
    – user98990
    Jul 8, 2015 at 5:08
  • Useful link, @LittleEva. It seems that people could be interpreted as merely having two definitions: plural for person, or a group of individuals who share a trait (e.g. ethnicity). It still doesn't answer the question, though. Why would we put 's on a word which is plural? Jul 8, 2015 at 5:35
  • 1
    @gregsdennis to indicate the possessive. Why wouldn't we put 's on a plural word?
    – phoog
    Jul 8, 2015 at 5:42
  • phoog's got the sense of it, gregsdennis - to indicate possession. For example, at times you manage a person's money, and at other times you manage a number of people's money. There is the People's Republic of China, which is composed of 7 distinct peoples of differing ethnicities,
    – user98990
    Jul 8, 2015 at 6:00
  • 1
    But the name of the country is translated that way because it is assumed to imply that all the inhabitants of China are one "people"; otherwise it would be Peoples' Republic of China Jul 8, 2015 at 6:39

2 Answers 2


The rule is that you add 's to a word to make it posessive, unless the word is a plural that ends in "s" already. Any style guide will tell you that. For non-plurals that end in "s" usage varies. For example, the possessive of Jesus is often Jesus' but the possessive of bus would normally be bus's.

The usual example of a plural possessive ending in 's is men's.

The reason for the different treatment of words ending in s depending on whether they are singular or plural is related to pronunciation: the plural ending sounds like the possessive ending, and doubling the sound for plural possessive is awkward.


The first is correct. The singular "people" can refer to any number of persons.

The only time the plural "peoples" is used is to refer to multiple ethnic, national or racial groups.

  • I've clarified my question a bit. I'm not asking about the word "people" specifically, but rather its possessive form. Jul 8, 2015 at 5:27
  • 1
    The possessive form of the uncount mass noun "people" is people's as you correctly showed in your first example, which I said is correct. The possessive of the plural count noun "peoples" is peoples' which could be apt in other cases (various indigenous peoples' mating customs), but not in the context of your example. Jul 8, 2015 at 5:49

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