For a sentence such as "physics’ greatest...", would you use physics’s or physics’ ?

Microsoft Word highlights physics's as incorrect; however, I have seen it be used.

  • 1
    What research have you done and what conclusions have you come to by way of this research? What opinion do you have? Which one do you feel is correct and why? Please add this to the post.
    – Hank
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:25
  • This type of question comes up constantly here. There really is no rule. It is a case of which makes you feel comfortable. Personally I would write "physics' greatest", but I would not regard "physics's greatest" as incorrect.
    – WS2
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:26
  • 2
    physics is a collective singular word. physic is rarely seen. Oct 4, 2017 at 21:32
  • 1
    Similar, but it doesn't mention the word "physics" in particular: What is the possessive form of a singular noun ending with a plural s?
    – herisson
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


My understanding is that both may be used, but that in the case of physics, the addition of 's would render the word ungainly in pronunciation, and so physics' might be preferred.

f pronunciation would be awkward with the added -‘s, some writers use only the apostrophe. Either use is acceptable.
Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference

With some singular nouns that end in -s, pronouncing the possessive ending as a separate syllable can sound awkward; in such cases, it is acceptable to use just an apostrophe.
Kirszner & Mandell, The Brief Holt Handbook

Since writers vary in the use of the apostrophe, it is not possible to make a hard and fast rule about the apostrophe in singular words ending in s.… Punctuate according to pronunciation.
John E. Warriner, English Grammar and Composition

SOURCE: https://www.englishrules.com/writing/2005/possessive-form-of-singular-nouns-ending-with-s/

  • 1
    Historically, "physics" is actually a plural form, which might or might not be considered relevant by a pedant.
    – herisson
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:31
  • @sumelic contradicted by my comment below the question. Makes me a pedant? Oct 4, 2017 at 21:34
  • 1
    @sumelic Great point, although I think the singular "physic" is squarely archaic and not in common usage in the modern era.
    – DukeZhou
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:34
  • @WeatherVane: in modern English, "physics" is use to refer to a field of study, and it takes singular verb agreement (in most cases), so it can be considered a singular noun, but the fact remains that the "s" comes from the plural suffix used in words like "cats" or "dogs". How it's used in modern English doesn't change the etymology. As I said, I don't know if this etymological detail is relevant or not to the formation of the possessive: the word news also originated as a plural form, but I think I would say the news’s rather than the news’.
    – herisson
    Oct 4, 2017 at 21:37
  • @sumelic is this regional - "math" in USA, but "maths" in UK? I do hope you are consistent and say "physic" where we say "physics" ;) Oct 4, 2017 at 21:38

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.