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I was watching an episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver. It's an American show hosted by an Englishman. He displayed a paragraph of text during the show which read, "The Bad Boys Club' T-shirt." I am confused. The club is called The Bad Boys Club so I figure it's irrelevant that there's not an apostrophe in or after the word Boys. But please can someone explain the lack of an S after the word Club?

  • Unclear. Are you asking about the apostrophe you have shown following "Club"? – Hot Licks Aug 16 '18 at 0:29
  • It looks OK to me. You are right that no genitive marking is required on "boys", and likewise it is not required on "Club" either. – BillJ Aug 16 '18 at 6:10
  • Yes, Hot Locks. I was expecting 's rather than just ' – Daniel Ford Aug 16 '18 at 8:36
  • You need either "The Bad Boys Club T-shirt" or "The Bad Boys Club's T-shirt". They have slightly different usages which sites such as English Language Learners will happily explain. "The Bad Boys Club' T-shirt" is as wrong as "my' T-shirt" or "your' example" or "his' mistake." – Robbie Goodwin Sep 1 '18 at 21:14
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You are correct about the punctuation.

First of all, using ' and not 's is typically only done when there is a possessive of a plural subject:

The two cars' engines.
The many Christmas trees' lights.

(In the past, it used to be a stylistic convention to put only a ' after a singular subject that ended in s. Although that is still done by some people, the convention has shifted away from that recently.)

The subject in question here seems to be The Bad Boys Club.

Despite having the plural boys as part of its name, it is a singular club.


There are two ways of interpreting this:

  1. The Bad Boys Club's T-shirt.

Here, it's a single T-shirt that is owned by the club.

  1. The Bad Boys Club T-shirt.

Here, it's a type of T-shirt that represents The Bad Boys Club. (The club name acts adjectivally.)

This is similar to wearing a Nike shoe rather than a Nike's shoe.


But in whichever interpretation, the sole apostrophe after Club isn't correct.

  • By focusing on grammatical number (plurality) instead of on sound laws governing inflectional morphology, you lose sight of what actually matters for any of these: these children’s toys, those mice’s droppings, some women’s husbands, those geese’s nests, all phenomena’s explanations, these corpora’s common origin, those nuclei’s organelles, this species’ name, these species’ names. The actual rules aren’t about the number, because if they were, we would not say or write any of those that way. But we do. – tchrist Sep 1 '18 at 19:20
  • @tchrist Sound laws aren’t really what matter either, though. The plural morpheme written ⟨s⟩ never takes ⟨s⟩ as part of its possessive marker, only the bare apostrophe, which you might attribute to their lack of any phonetic representation of the possessive, which is of course sound law–based. But singular nouns ending in ⟨s⟩ which can optionally take ⟨’⟩ or ⟨’s⟩ as their possessive marker regardless of pronunciation (like Socrates’/Socrates’s) are not explainable by sound laws, only by orthographic convention. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 1 '18 at 19:28
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This may answer your question. From the 17th edition of the CMS:

Although terms denoting group ownership or participation sometimes appear without an apostrophe (i.e., as an attributive rather than a possessive noun), Chicago dispenses with the apostrophe only in proper names (often corporate names) that do not officially include one. In a few established cases, a singular noun can be used attributively; if in doubt, choose the plural possessive. (Irregular plurals such as children and women must always be in the possessive.)

children’s rights (or child rights)

farmers’ market

women’s soccer team

boys’ clubs

veterans’ organizations

players’ unions

taxpayers’ associations (or taxpayer associations)

consumers’ group (or consumer group)

but

Publishers Weekly

Diners Club

Department of Veterans Affairs

In some cases, the distinction between attributive and possessive is subtle. Of the following two examples, only the first connotes actual possession.

the Lakers’ game plan (the team’s game plan)

but

the Lakers game (the game featuring the team)

When in doubt, opt for the possessive.

Basically, there should have been an s after the apostrophe.

See this as well:

The possessive of most singular nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s. The possessive of plural nouns (except for a few irregular plurals, like children, that do not end in s) is formed by adding an apostrophe only.

the horse’s mouth

a bass’s stripes

puppies’ paws

children’s literature

a herd of sheep’s mysterious disappearance

Chicago does provide a few exceptions to these principles.

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