Conscience' sake, Ben and Lisa's cars and other special possessives rules


Possessives aren’t as hard as they seem. Usually, if you just take it slow and remember the rules, you can avoid mistakes like “the Smith’s house” and “Charle’s mother” when you mean “the Smiths’ house” and “Charles’ mother” or the also-correct “Charles’s mother.”

Learn the rules, apply the rules and you’re home free.

But that’s not the end of the story. I just run out of space before I can get to the ugly truth: Special rules and exceptions further complicate the already difficult business of possessives.

These special situations turn the basic rules upside-down, telling us that a seeming possessive like “teachers college” might not take an apostrophe at all.

They tell us that that both “Ben and Lisa’s cars” and “Ben’s and Lisa’s cars” are correct. And they tell us that a singular, like “conscience,” runs contrary to simple possessive rules in “conscience’ sake.”

Here's a recent column with some special rules you should know if you want to fully master possessives.


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