Quick apostrophe help please.

(28 Posts)
Pipbin Mon 30-May-16 13:21:30

I just want to draw on the wisdom on the MN crowd to see which is correct or preferred.

Should it be James' coat or James's coat?

I know it is a tricky one and what is correct seems to depend on the day of the week.

LanaorAna1 Mon 30-May-16 13:24:02

James' - the rule is that the additional 's' only applies to words that don't end in 's' already.

Fallstar Mon 30-May-16 13:24:27

As I understand it, either is correct but you should aim for consistency, whichever one you choose. Personally, I would go for James's coat.

ElfinStardust Mon 30-May-16 13:25:58

I don't agree with Lana but it could be that the rule changed at some point and I am behind the times.

MarvinKMooney Mon 30-May-16 13:26:32

Yes, I think both are correct. I'd go for James'. (This thread probably won't help you! grin)

YolandiFuckinVisser Mon 30-May-16 13:28:12

It is James's coat. The s' suffix is only for plurals, not words or names that end with the letter s.

Eg: the boy's ball for a ball belonging to a boy (singular). The boys' ball for a ball which enjoys the shared ownership of 2 or more boys.

HarrietSchulenberg Mon 30-May-16 13:40:28

Lana, Marvin and I seem to have been taught the same grammar rules but a (very) quick google trawl reveals the grammar police have adopted a more consistent approach and now recommend Yolandi et al's rule.
I am still sticking with my rules so if James wants his ball it'll have to be James' ball or I'll take it off him grin.

Sgtmajormummy Mon 30-May-16 13:42:45

The first for written and the second for spoken, I'd say.
You'd sound like a proper pedant if you came out with: "I saw JAMEZZZZZZZ parents at the school gate.". grin

Pipbin Mon 30-May-16 19:39:06

I wish I hadn't asked now.
I'm going for James's.

Squashybanana Mon 30-May-16 19:42:45

I was taught you do James's or James' because it is a single syllable name ending in s. However longer names ending in s should just use the apostrophe and not the extra s, such as Thomas' ball. However I think nowadays the extra s is pretty much universally accepted.

Bolograph Mon 30-May-16 19:44:25

You'd sound like a proper pedant if you came out with: "I saw JAMEZZZZZZZ parents at the school gate.

Would you? I'd naturally say Jamesis Parents. I suppose there might be people who would say James Parents, to rhyme with games, barely more than one syllable, but it doesn't sound right to me.

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark Tue 31-May-16 14:06:24

Both are correct. The standard has always been James's because it actually sounds like you've done something "grammatically" to change the root name, whereas James' is open to not being understood as it would technically be pronounced exactly the same as the name on its own.

I imagine that people who write James' still actually say James's.

BitOutOfPractice Tue 31-May-16 14:15:30

Is as always taught James' as a child but u think James's us now more accepted and common

Sgtmajormummy Tue 31-May-16 20:20:51

Try these two phrases aloud:
"I've got Jane's book."
"I've got James' book."
Confusing. grin

Middleoftheroad Tue 31-May-16 20:30:09

Either is correct. I would write James' because that's how I was taught. I notice that James's seems more popular these days, although it really bugs me to see it written that way for some reason!

dementedpixie Tue 31-May-16 20:35:23

If you would sound the extra 's' then I would put it in e.g. I would sound the extra 's' in James's so it belongs there. Both are correct as far as I am aware

ReggaeShark Tue 31-May-16 20:37:14


iklboo Tue 31-May-16 20:41:35

I used to work in St James's Building - but the football ground is St James' Park

Hrafnkel Tue 31-May-16 20:43:19

I agree with a pp, who said either is fine but aim for consistency. Consistency is the main approach of copy editors.

Jaimx86 Tue 31-May-16 20:50:21

Ooo ... I've taught my students James' for their GCSE exams. Old school grammar...

Pipbin Tue 31-May-16 20:55:54

Right. I hereby declare that no one is allowed to name their child anything ending with an s. That'll stop it being a problem.

Sgtmajormummy Tue 31-May-16 21:48:10

iklboo thanks for reminding me!
I was born in St. James's Hospital, Leeds almost half a century ago.

Middleoftheroad Tue 31-May-16 22:34:55

While I like to use James' the extra s is often (also correctly) added instead - so James's ball, the Jones's house etc.

However, you never see it used with other words ending in an s, as in - the boys's ball (the ball belonging to a group of boys). It would be 'the boys' ball) or 'the toddlers's play area (group of toddlers). Again, that would be 'the toddlers' play area' etc.


Bolograph Tue 31-May-16 23:09:03

However, you never see it used with other words ending in an s,

The issue arises, in general, with singular nouns that happen to end in s. There's no debate about "The boys' coats" because "boys" is unambiguously plural, nor about "David's coat" because David is singular and doesn't end in S. The issue arises around James because it's singular, therefore would normally take 's, but already has an s.

Pedant extra. You're often told that apostrophes do two different jobs: possession and elision (missing letters). In fact they only really do one: elision.

The apostrophe arrives in English for possession quite late (18th century?) because pedants of the time noticed that English used to inflect nouns for possession, and the apostrophe marked where an e had stopped being used.

If you look at the opening of R3, where a modern edition would say "He capers nimbly in a lady's chamber" first folio has "He capers nimbly in a Ladies Chamber", and where a modern edition has "Of Edward's heirs the murderer shall be", first folio has "Edwards heyres the murtherer shall be." Two different ways of forming possession, but no apostrophe. It's only used in first folio for things like know'st, from knowest, and lov'd, from loved - where the e would have been sounded at the time. These are mostly for metrical reasons.

To see where the C18 pedants were coming from, the first folio has "For Gods sake hence, and trouble vs not," which is arguably a contraction of "For Goddes sake"; after all, Chaucer has "For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille". So the C18 pedants formed a load of rules about apostrophes based on where, they thought, middle English would have had an e. They might even be right.

So if you think Chaucer would have had Jameses coat, it's James's coat. If you think Chaucer would have had James Coat, it's James coat. For it to be James' coat, you'd need Chaucer to have written Jamese coat. I don't know enough Chaucer to comment.

Greenandmighty Tue 31-May-16 23:22:30

Both are correct. Where a name ends with an 's' you can either add apostrophe after or add apostrophe plus an extra 's'.

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