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Say we have a hotel named the Springfield Arms. The name itself is singular, since it refers to an individual hotel, but it ends with the pluralized noun “Arms”.

What is the correct way to write the possessive of this hotel’s name? Do you treat it as a singular noun overall ("the Springfield Arms’s address"), or as a plural noun ("the Springfield Arms’ address")?

I know the issue can be sidestepped by rephrasing, such as with “the address of the Springfield Arms hotel”, but I’m still curious what the actual answer is.


I found a couple similar questions (Possessive for name with implied plural, Possessive Form of a Proper Noun Ending in a Plural Noun Ending in "s"?), but the former was closed without answers and points to the latter, whereas the latter’s answers vary widely and I can’t discern any clear rule or convention. The latter is also closed pointing the a third question (see below), which doesn’t address mine.

To clarify, this question is not a duplicate of Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe? — the two questions are about entirely different things. That question asks which singular names like “James” and “Aeneas” are subject to exceptions to rules about possessive forms with regard to sibilants; my question asks whether a compound singular name ending in a plural noun should be treated as singular or plural overall. That is not the same at all (for instance, regardless of the possessive rule used, there is no question that “James” is a strictly singular name).

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  • A hint: James is a singular name. The hat belonging to James is James’ hat.
    – Peter
    Aug 30, 2023 at 12:43
  • @Peter Yes, but “Arms” is a plural noun, not just a singular name that happens to end in -s, so I want to know whether that makes a difference.
    – Walter
    Aug 30, 2023 at 12:56
  • Google Books suggests Sergeant-at-Arms's is common, but struggling to find examples with a pub. Some people would say you shouldn't use apostrophe-S with an inanimate object, but I think that's a little too pedantic.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 30, 2023 at 13:40
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    Personally I prefer using apostrophe-s for any singular nouns and names that end in “-s”, regardless of what they are or how they’re used. (I know some style guides have special rules for things like certain classical names, or whether the final “-s” is silent, or whether the next word starts with an “s-”, etc., but I personally think that’s all overly pedantic, so I ignore it.)
    – Walter
    Aug 30, 2023 at 14:04
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    Does this answer your question? Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe? // “Arms” is a plural-form noun treated as singular (the Springfield Arms is about a mile further on). The duplicate says that form follows pronunciation, and I doubt whether two syllables (requiring 's) would be used by many. The situation is different with the Jones' / Jones's house, both variants being used. Aug 31, 2023 at 13:56

1 Answer 1

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This is between you and your style guide of choice.

Mine is The Chicago Manual of Style, so I would go with the rule for “a plural form ending in s . . . even though the entity is singular”: the Springfield Arms’ address.

7.20: Possessive of nouns plural in form, singular in meaning

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

The same rule applies when the name of a place or an organization or a publication (or the last element in the name) is a plural form ending in s, such as the United States, even though the entity is singular.
the United States’ role in international law
Highland Hills’ late mayor
Callaway Gardens’ former curator
the National Academy of Sciences’ new policy

Source: The Chicago Manual of Style (login required)

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  • Ah, I was wondering whether any style guides covered it. I personally differ from the CMoS on some of these, but seeing that the matter really is just a matter of stylistic choice rather than any hard & fast rule answers my question. Thanks.
    – Walter
    Aug 31, 2023 at 3:33

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