“She spent a lot of time criticizing them for trying to change the native Africans’ traditions.”

Is this the grammatically-correct sentence?

My try

“Native Africans traditions” in this case Africans should be adjective

“Native Africans‘ traditions” Africans is a noun, so Africans’s means that the traditions of native Africans

Complete text

“Mary Kingsley didn't travel during the first 30 years of her life. However, when her father died, leaving her an inheritance, she decided to set off for West Africa, which was still largely unmapped in the 1890s. Kingsley traveled alone, which was almost unheard of for a female at the time. During her travels, she lived with local people and learned their skills and customs.

Kingsley became quite well known after returning to England. She spent a lot of time criticizing missionaries for trying to change the native (Africans’?) traditions.”

(I had to put the correct word from the variants)





  • @choster I am completely agree with You - I’m just pass the test, and want to review it, but I do not know the rule for this case, that’s why I am posting a question. Jul 1, 2020 at 15:41
  • 1
    This is somewhat opinion-based. For one thing, "native African traditions" might be used, if the reference were intended to be to the native inhabitants, vs a specific group of people.
    – Hot Licks
    Jul 1, 2020 at 16:04
  • 1
    Africans' ( the traditions of the Africans). We don't use s's except in the case of a singular word ending in s (e.g. Saint James's Street) Jul 1, 2020 at 16:31
  • @KateBunting, yeah many of people agree that this is the correct one. However, the correct answers for my test will be within a day Jul 1, 2020 at 16:40
  • As an adjectival phrase, it would be native African [singular] traditions. Adjectives are normally not plural. Since that option doesn't exist, and assuming you must pick one of the four that do, that leaves, by elimination, only the possessive interpretation—which is D) Africans'. Jul 1, 2020 at 23:04

1 Answer 1


All of the following are correct:

  • "The missionaries tried to change the Native African traditions" (no "s" on "African")
  • "The missionaries tried to change the Native Africans traditions" (no apostrophe is used)
  • "The missionaries tried to change the traditions of the Native Africans"
  • "The missionaries tried to change the Native Africans' traditions"

I would avoid writing African's because that would imply that the Native African is only one person. The string Africans' represents a plural possessive.

There is no one unique correct way to write the sentence. It is not the case that all other variations on that sentence are wrong.

  • Thank you for your answers. Just a note on your formatting: we prefer that you please not use computer code markdown on ELU, as we do not have computer code here. Please set mentions in italics the way professional publications do, or use ‘normal’ “quotation marks” if you prefer. Please never use `backquotes` for mentions, since as you see, they look hideous ard confusing.
    – tchrist
    Sep 25, 2022 at 15:25
  • I keep hovering over the upvote button, but that second example is bothering me. Often used and easily understood, certainly, but I'm having trouble seeing a version with no apostrophe as "correct". Sep 26, 2022 at 9:54

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