Ok, I am really confused regarding apostrophe with the s and the end of the word. I have looked through multiple sites only to see multiple viewpoints. And, on tests they test it differently. So, can anyone help me with the following problem:

The only evidence of the species survival before its rediscovery at the end of the century was an unconfirmed recording.

Would it be species' or species's ?

There is a lot of advice on the internet about how to use possessive S with names such as the following:

Per APA Style, the answer is that the possessive of a singular name is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s, even when the name ends in s (see p. 96 in the sixth edition of the Publication Manual). Therefore, in the example above, the correct usage would be “Adams’s (2013) work.” Although this presentation may look awkward to some writers, the rule for forming the possessive does not change just because the name ends in s.

However, it is important to note the following exception to this rule: You should use an apostrophe only with the singular form of names ending in unpronounced s (see p. 97 in the Publication Manual). Therefore, if you were writing a paper about the philosopher Descartes, to form the possessive with his name, you would need to just add an apostrophe (e.g., Descartes’ theory).

To help illustrate these guidelines, let’s look at a few more examples of properly formatted possessives:

Sigmund Freud’s method

Jesus’s disciples

Charles Dickens’s novels

Socrates’s life

François Rabelais’ writings (note that Rabelais ends with an unpronounced s)

However, the word species in the sentence above is not a name. The case with species does not seem to be a normal case like dog's or dogs' or even on a par with bus's or buses'. It's difficult to put ones finger on why, though.

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    Possible duplicate of What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in "‑s"?
    – Tonepoet
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 17:32
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    CMS also says "species' survival" is okay, and it seems the best to me.
    – Xanne
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 8:55
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    The rules for forming possessives DOES NOT come out different for common nouns versus proper nouns. That's why it's the species’ survival and Aristophanes’ plays and the bus’s brakes and the people’s court. It a sound law not a written rule, and the sound law has no exceptions because it's part of the real language not an artifact of writing.
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 10:48
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    @tchrist It isn't merely a sound rule. It also depends on the grammar. Making bus possessive results in /bʌsɪz/ but making buses possessive does not result in /bʌsɪzɪz/ and making loris possessive does result in /lɒrɪsɪz/. Effectively the rule states that we don't stick a possessive S suffix on another S suffix. In your list of possessive forms, species does not straightforwardly follow the rule because even when in the singular as in the OP's example, it does not take the /ɪz/ suffix, when theoretically, it ought to ... Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 11:50
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    @tchrist ... The reason is presumably that species is morphologically plural even when grammatically singular.This kind of thing rarely happens with proper nouns, because singular people rarely have morphologically plural names. If you see what I mean. Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 11:52

2 Answers 2


The online Chicago Manual of Style (both 16th and 17th editions) states:

When the singular form of a noun ending in s is the same as the plural (i.e., the plural is uninflected), the possessives of both are formed by the addition of an apostrophe only. If ambiguity threatens, use of to avoid the possessive.

And gives the following examples:

politics’ true meaning
economics’ forerunners
this species’ first record (or, better, the first record of this species)

This is section 7.19 of the 16th edition and 7.20 of the 17th edition (2017).

Obviously this differs to my comments saying that the CMOS says species's, which I took on faith from a third party website.

However, in speaking, despite remarks by others, I'm not sure I would rule out saying the species's survival (with the extra syllable) just to clarify that I'm talking about the possessive form of the word. This is my opinion only.

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    Good job doing the research! This looks like it could also be a pretty good answer to english.stackexchange.com/questions/412730/… ... unfortunately, that was closed as a "duplicate" of another question that doesn't really answer it (the "duplicate" is about proper nouns specifically)
    – herisson
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 16:54
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    The first part of this is exactly the right answer to the question. +1 (PS, I reckon this shows that the OP had a genuine, helpful, not as straightforward as it may seem, interesting question for readers. It needs upvoting). Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 22:38

Whatever the text books and the Internet sites say, it is my own experience as an English speaker that nobody ever says or writes something like "species's".

We just don't talk like that in the UK. It's too risky, especially if one's false teeth don't fit too well.

The only time I can think of a plural apostrophe being tolerated in daily speech is "Jones's" because it is easy to say.

The natural thing to do - and the way, indeed, that the language has evolved to avoid the above problem - is to say species' in conversation, whether or not the additional 's is added in written English.

  • So, on a test I should do it based on what I hear?
    – G.B
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 1:41
  • Language develops and modifies in the mouths of those who speak it. We shorten things and add vowels and do all sorts just to be comfortable with what we say. Nothing clumsy lasts long in the evolution of language.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 1:48
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    @Clare I shall never, ever, ever say the word "species's". I regard it as ridiculous.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 2:39
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    @G.B. Indeed; and I want to avoid having to pay someone to dry clean my saliva off their clothing once I have said species's to them.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 9:13
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    Why is there not an actual answer included in this "answer". If you don't use species's (which corresponds to a rare pronunciation), then to indicate possession, you need to use species' with an apostrophe after the "s". Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 11:18

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