LawProse Lesson 378 : No More Possessive Puzzles!

Our lessons on possessives have prompted more queries than we’d expected. Now that we’ve covered the plural possessive, people are clamoring for advice on the singular possessive. Here’s all you need to know if your name is Burns:

Ken Burns’s films
(singular possessive—the preferred form with ’s )

the Burnses are here
(the only correct plural for Ken and his family)

the Burnses’ house
(the only correct plural possessive)

If your name is Willis:

Bruce Willis’s films
(singular possessive—the preferred form with ’s )

the Willises are here
(the only correct plural for Bruce and his family)

the Willises’ house
(the only correct plural possessive)

Only the possessive forms have apostrophes—not the simple plurals.

Now you possess some uncommon knowledge.

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