Students’ or Student’s: Differentiating Plural and Plural Possessive (2023)

In any language, when you have the right tools, you can express almost anything. Making plurals and showing ownership in English are both subject to several rules, which leads to our discussion on when to use “students’” and when you should rather use “student’s.”

Student’s is the singular form of the possessive noun student, referring to something a single student owns. Students’ is the plural form of the possessive noun and refers to something multiple students own. When referring to someone studying at an institution, we call them a student, and when there is more than one of them, they are students.

In this article, we’ll examine the use of the apostrophe and why it can cause so much confusion.

We will explore singular and plural nouns so that we’re clear on whether we’re talking about students in plural or singular. We’ll also look at the rules that determine singular and plural possessive nouns and the exceptions to those rules.

What’s the Difference Between Students’ and Student’s?

To understand the difference between “students’” and “student’s,” let’s look at some examples that illustrate this best.

StudentSingular nounThe student signed up for my class.
StudentsPlural nounThe students signed up for my class.
Student’sSingular possessiveThe student’s paper received the highest grade.
Students’Plural possessiveThe students’ papers were all above average.

It should be clear from this table what the meanings are of “students’” vs. “student’s” and when to use each of them. In two of the above examples, we can use an apostrophe either before or after the “s,” which can easily cause confusion. To alleviate this, let’s discuss the function of apostrophes.

The Possessive Form and Apostrophes

Apostrophes have many uses, and one of the most common is to show possession. To clarify apostrophe use, we can turn the sentence around and create an “of” phrase (source):

  • The student’s hat = the hat of the student
  • The woman’s coat = the coat of the women
  • The cat’s paw = the paw of the cat

The table below demonstrates the different ways we can use apostrophes to indicate possession.

Apostrophe WhenExamples
‘sSingular noun(even those ending in -s)The student’s life was in danger.
Jess’s car is parked around the corner.
The octopus’s legs are tangled in seaweed.
‘sPlurals that don’t end in -sThe geese’s goslings are going to drown.
The men’s cigars are in the box.
The fish’s scales are very slimy.
Plurals that end in -sThe students’ papers are on my desk.
The girls’ legs were badly burned.
The friends’ lives are intertwined.

When deciding where to place the apostrophe in “students,” it’s essential to know whether you are talking about one student or more than one. If it’s singular, then the choice will be “student’s,” and if you’re talking about more than one, then the choice will be “students’.”

You need to understand if you are using possessive forms because apostrophes have two other uses that could be confusing. We outline these below.

(Video) Grammar: Plural or Possessive?

To Show Omission of Letters

In contractions, we omit certain letters to make words flow more easily. In these cases, we use apostrophes to show where we’ve omitted the letters.

  • Do not → don’t
  • I am → I’m
  • Should not → shouldn’t

To Form Plurals of Letters, Numbers, and Symbols

We don’t use apostrophes to form plurals except in the case of letters, numbers, and symbols.

  • Jack is used to seeing a report full of A’s.
  • There are three 4’s in my phone number.
  • I prefer if you don’t use too many @’s in your report.

Importantly, we should never use apostrophes to make any other plurals or form possessive pronouns. Possessive pronouns such as “his,” “hers,” “its,” “yours,” etc., never use an apostrophe.

Students’ or Student’s: Differentiating Plural and Plural Possessive (1)

Singular and Plural

Before we dive into the possessive form, let’s first consider singular and plural nouns. You probably already know that we can make most singular nouns into plurals simply by adding an “s” at the end, like the examples below.

  • Student → students
  • Dog → dogs
  • Shirt → shirts
  • Bowl → bowls

However, not all words merely take an “s,” and you’ll simply have to learn some of these exceptions. We explain the most common exceptions below.

Words That End in -s, -ss, -sh, -ch, x, or z

In these cases, we then add -es to the end of the word, like the examples below.

  • Bus → buses
  • Pass → passes
  • Marsh → marshes
  • Branch → branches
  • Tax → taxes
  • Klutz → klutzes

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule, and we sometimes need to double the final letter for certain words ending in -z or -s before adding the -es, as we show below.

  • Gas → gasses
  • Fez → fezzes

Words That End in -f or -fe

In these cases, we mostly substitute the -f or -fe for -ve before adding an “s” as in the following.

  • Knife → knives
  • Calf → calves

This rule also has some exceptions, so you must learn these.

(Video) Plural Possessive Nouns

  • Roof → roofs
  • Belief → beliefs
  • Chief → chiefs

Words That End in -y

Words that end in -y preceded by a consonant replace the -y with -ies to make a plural.

  • City → cities
  • Party → parties
  • Kitty → kitties

Words that end in -y preceded by a vowel simply add -s to make a plural.

  • Tray → trays
  • Relay → relays

Words That End in -o

These words add -es to the word to create a plural.

  • Potato → potatoes
  • Tomato → tomatoes

Again, there are exceptions to this rule that you must learn. These include the following.

  • Halo → halos
  • Piano → pianos
  • Photo → photos
Students’ or Student’s: Differentiating Plural and Plural Possessive (2)

Now that we’ve covered the basics of singular and plural nouns, let’s consider how we go about showing ownership of those nouns.

Possessive Nouns

We use possessive nouns to signify ownership, and the rules vary depending on whether the noun we’re describing is singular or plural.

Singular Possessive Nouns

We usually add -‘s to singular nouns to demonstrate possession, as in the examples below (source).

  • That is Sharon’s car.
  • The dog’s collar is blue.
  • The student’s pen is missing.

In these examples, there is just one Sharon, one dog, and one student. Returning to our title, “student’s” is the singular possessive form of “student.”

Plural Possessive Nouns

We usually add just an apostrophe to plural nouns that end in -s.

(Video) Plural S and Possessive S || Apostrophe S and S Apostrophe || Learn English Grammar

  • The dogs’ collars are blue.
  • Those cars’ windshields are all broken.
  • The students’ bags are missing.

There is more than one dog, car, and student in these examples; therefore, they are all plurals. “Students’” is, therefore, the plural possessive form of “student.”

Not all plurals end in -s, and in these irregular cases, we add -’s to show possession (source).

  • The women’s coats were all red.
  • The children’s shoes are all over the garden.
  • The people’s award went to Jack.

The more you see English written and hear it spoken, the easier it will be to work out which plurals and possessives are appropriate. You can read about similar possessive questions in our articles dealing with week’s or weeks’ and children’s or childrens’.

Student Defined

With all this discussion of students, let’s clarify what a student is. Both American and British English classify a student as someone who is learning, especially at a university or college. However, American English stretches this definition to include those who are studying at school (source).

  • My students are never late for class.
  • She is a student at Princeton University.
  • The history students went on a tour of Egypt.

We could also describe someone with a particular interest in a subject as a “student” of that subject, even if they’re not formally studying it. To understand that context, consider the examples below.

  • She loves to work in the garden and is a student of the outdoors.
  • As a teacher, I’ve become a student of human nature.

Etymology of Student

The word “student” comes from the Old French word estudiant, which translates as “one who is studying” and has its roots in the Latin word studiare (to study).

There are various synonyms for “student” that you can use, depending on context. If we are speaking about someone who is formally engaged in studying, we could refer to them as a “scholar” or “pupil.” We could also be specific about how far they are with their studies and refer to a “freshman,” “senior,” or “graduate.”

In the context of someone with a particular interest in something and who is not formally studying, we could use synonyms such as “disciple” or “studier.”

How to Use Student’s and Students’

Now that we’ve discussed the singular and plural possessive forms, we need to cover how to use these in conversation.

Each Student’s or Each Students’?

“Each” refers to all members of a group individually. When using “each” as a determiner for a sentence’s subject, we always follow it with a singular noun and a singular verb, as we demonstrate below.

(Video) PLURAL POSSESSIVE NOUNS | English Lesson

  • Each student’s score will be considered in determining the winner.
  • Before class, the teacher took each student’s temperature.
  • Each student’s bag sat outside the lecture hall.

We would never use “each students’” in any context. However, we often follow “each” with a prepositional phrase that ends in a plural, such as “each of the students.” This is no longer a possessive form, but don’t let it confuse you — “each” is still singular and takes a singular verb, as in the following (source).

  • Each of the students is responsible for meeting the deadline.
  • Each of the students has a special place in my heart.

Your Student’s or Your Students’

When using “your,” I am referring to something that belongs to you. If I say “your student,” then I am talking about your one student. If I say “your students,” then I am referring to all of your students.

Likewise, in the possessive form, the use of “your student’s” vs. “your students’” will depend on whether “student” is in the singular or plural. Consider the examples below to illustrate this.

  • Have you finished marking your student’s work? (one particular student)
  • Have you finished marking your students’ work? (all students)
  • Do you know your student’s home address? (one particular student)
  • Do you know your students’ home addresses? (all students)
  • Your student’s file should be in the cabinet by the window. (one particular student)
  • Your students’ files should be in the cabinet by the window. (all students)

The Student’s or The Students’

Again, when using the article “the” followed by a possessive form, it will depend on whether we are talking about one student or many students. Consider the examples below.

  • The student’s room is unlocked.
  • The students’ room is unlocked.

If the room belongs to just one student, then we will use the singular possessive. But, if the same room belongs to two or more students, then we will use the plural possessive.

  • The student’s papers have been graded.
  • The students’ papers have been graded.

Here, if one student has many papers awaiting a grade, we will use the singular possessive because, although there are many papers, there is still just one student.This article was written for

And, if there are many students with many papers for the teacher to grade, then we will use the plural possessive to show that the papers belong to more than one student.

Final Thoughts

It’s key to know whether you are dealing with a singular or plural noun when deciding what form of the possessive to use. Once you know if you’re talking about one item or more, one student or two, then you can decide how to show possession.

There are exceptions, but, broadly speaking, we add -’s to singular nouns, and we add just an apostrophe to plurals that end in “s” to create the possessive form. This is the case with the noun “student,” and as you are all students of English, you need to know how to treat it.

We believe teachers should support each student’s study to encourage their students’ aspirations!

(Video) Apostrophes for Possession | Possessive Nouns | EasyTeaching


Students’ or Student’s: Differentiating Plural and Plural Possessive? ›

The words students' and student's are both used to show possession. The word student's is a singular possessive (as in one student's book), while students' is a plural possessive (as in many students' books).

What is the plural possessive form of students? ›

When you're talking about a group of students who share a favorite subject, add an apostrophe to the plural noun students: The students' favorite subject was science.

Does plural students need an apostrophe? ›

students is plural and ends with -s: add an apostrophe only.

How do you make students possessive? ›

STUDENT STUDENT'S RULE: To show that a person possesses (owns) something, add an apostrophe (') and s to a singular noun. HOW TO MAKE A PLURAL NOUN POSSESSIVE: Examples: a) The students have books. PLURAL POSSESSIVE The students' books are blue.

What is the possessive case of students? ›

Student's is the singular form of the possessive noun student, referring to something a single student owns. Students' is the plural form of the possessive noun and refers to something multiple students own.

Do you put a possessive s after a plural? ›

Possessives. Form the possessive case of a singular noun by adding 's (even if the word ends in s). Form the possessive case of a plural noun by adding an apostrophe after the final letter if it is an s or by adding 's if the final letter is not an s. Remember: the apostrophe never designates the plural form of a noun.

What is the correct possessive form in plural? ›

To form the possessive, add apostrophe + s to the noun. If the noun is plural, or already ends in s, just add an apostrophe after the s. For names ending in s, you can either add an apostrophe + s, or just an apostrophe.

Is it student's needs or students needs? ›

The difference is one of syntax: in "student needs", the noun "student" is functioning as modifier of "needs", while in the genitive "students' needs", it is functioning as determiner of "needs".

How do you use possessive apostrophe with plural words examples? ›

To show possession in the plural form, all you have to do is put an apostrophe after the s. For example: Girls — girls' (girl + s + apostrophe) Friend — friends' (friend + s + apostrophe)

What are the 3 rules for apostrophes? ›

The apostrophe has three uses: 1) to form possessive nouns; 2) to show the omission of letters; and 3) to indicate plurals of letters, numbers, and symbols. ​Do not ​use apostrophes to form possessive ​pronouns ​(i.e. ​his​/​her ​computer) or ​noun ​plurals that are not possessives.

When not to use apostrophe for possession? ›

The exception to the possessive rule is that pronouns show possession without the use of apostrophes (e.g., my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, our, ours, their, theirs, its, whose, etc.).

Which is correct student's name or student name? ›

If referring to a particular person we would say: what is the student's name. The apostrophe and the letter s is added after the word student, to show belonging. Basically, the name belongs to the student. Generally this is the typical rule, even plurally, for example: what are the students' names?

Is the word students singular or plural? ›

student. plural. students. DEFINITIONS2. someone who goes to a university, college, or school.

Is each student singular or plural? ›

They are always singular, though. “Each” is often followed by a prepositional phrase ending in a plural word (“Each of the students”), which confuses the verb choice. Each, too, is always singular and requires a singular verb.

What are the rules for possessive nouns? ›

  • • Rule 1: To form the possessive of a singular noun, add an. apostrophe and s ('s) = car = car's.
  • • Rule 2: To form the possessive of a plural noun ending in s, add only an apostrophe (')= dogs = dogs'
  • • Rule 3: To form the possessive of a plural noun that does. not end in s, add an apostrophe and s ('s) = mice =

What's the difference between student's and students? ›

If a sentence only refers to a single student, we use the word student's. If a sentence refers to more than one student, we use the word students'. It is important to use the correct word because the same sentence can change meaning depending on which word is used.

How do you make a last name plural possessive that ends in s? ›

If the name ends in s, z, ch, or sh, you need to add es. That means the Davis family becomes the Davises, the French family becomes the Frenches, the Hernandez family becomes the Hernandezes, and the Glaves family becomes the Glaveses. If the name ends in x, also add es—unless the x is silent.

How do you use plural s vs possessive s? ›

Both plurals and possessives (ownership) require an s at the end of a noun, but only the possessive requires an apostrophe (') in addition to the s.

How do you use plural possessive in a sentence? ›

We use these plural possessive pronouns to indicate plural ownership. The example sentences are from the plural possessive pronoun list above: • Our books, mine and Jim's, were on the top bookshelf. The pencils on the table are ours. Your backpacks are in the beige aluminum closet.

How do you do multiple plural possessive? ›

In plural possessive terms, place the apostrophe after the "s." This will indicate to the reader that more than one person or thing owns the thing possessed. Incorrect: The students success was largely attributable to their hard work and dedication.

How do you make a singular noun possessive when they end in s? ›

Most experts and guides say you should add an apostrophe and an S to both proper and common nouns to make them possessive even when they end in S. So, using the examples above, it would be: Chris's car. the crocus's petals.

Which sentences use the possessive form correctly? ›

We form possessives from singular nouns by adding an apostrophe ( ' ) and an "s" to the end of the word. Examples: dog = I built the dog's house. man = She fixed the man's phone.

How do you use an apostrophe in a possessive noun? ›

Apostrophes are used in possessive nouns to indicate that something belongs to something or someone else. To indicate possession with a singular noun, add an apostrophe “s” 's at the end of the word. This also applies to names and other proper nouns. The car's windscreen is foggy.

Is it correct to say we are a students? ›


Which is correct the students have or has? ›

Students is a plural noun and hence it takes have.

How to tell the difference between singular possessive and plural possessive? ›

Singular possessive nouns are formed by adding apostrophe s to singular nouns. Plural possessive nouns are formed by adding an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in s, and by adding an apostrophe s to plural nouns that do not end in s. Plural nouns that are not possessive do not have an apostrophe in them.

Is it James or James's? ›

The way you should write James in the possessive form depends upon the style guide you are using for writing the English language. If you're going with The Associated Press Stylebook, James' is the correct way of writing James in the possessive form. But, for all other style guides, James's is the way to go.

What is the golden rule of apostrophe? ›

Steps 1 to 5 are our most basic and important rules of possessive apostrophes. The apostrophe goes before the s if it's one person who is the owner or member of something, and the apostrophe goes after the s if it's multiple people who are the owners or members of something. Easy, right!?

What are the 5 examples of apostrophe? ›

  • It's a nice day outside. ( contraction)
  • The cat is dirty. Its fur is matted. ( possession)
  • You're not supposed to be here. ( contraction)
  • This is your book. ( possession)
  • Who's at the door? ( contraction)
  • Whose shoes are these? ( possession)
  • They're not here yet. ( contraction)
  • Their car is red. ( possession)

What is the apostrophe rule for multiple subjects? ›

Remember: The rule is if multiple people share something, you use one apostrophe-S. So if Steve and Amy have the same religious beliefs, it is correct to write about “Steve and Amy's beliefs” with only one apostrophe-S after the last noun.

What is the most common mistake made using an apostrophe? ›

The most common apostrophe errors involve homonyms: words that sound like each other but are spelled differently. Let's start with Its', its and it's. Its' is never correct; it is singular, so it would never require a plural possessive. If you're indicating possession, use its—no apostrophe is ever required.

How do you know if its needs an apostrophe? ›

The rule is actually pretty simple: use the apostrophe after it only when part of a word has been removed: it's raining means it is raining; it's been warm means it has been warm. It's is a contraction, in the style of can't for cannot and she's for she is.

Why do we use students names? ›

Use of student names has been shown to build classroom community, increase student engagement by helping them feel more comfortable, make students feel more accountable to the instructor, ensure students are comfortable seeking help, and increase student satisfaction with a course (Cooper et.

Should master's student have an apostrophe? ›

The correct way to spell master's degree is with the apostrophe. The s in master's indicates a possessive (the degree of a master), not a plural. If you're speaking of a specific degree, you should capitalize master and avoid creating a possessive: Master of Science.

How do you write students names? ›

Students' names” would be the correct one. When the apostrophe is after the 's', it implies that there would be multiple of both.

How do you teach students singular and plural? ›

Rules To Use Singular And Plural Nouns

If the singular noun ends with s, ss, sh, ch, x, or z, then we have to add an 'es' at the end of the noun to make it plural. For example, class – classes, box – boxes, watch – watches. If the singular noun ends with 'o', we have to add 'es' at the end of it.

Is students a plural subject? ›

Students is plural, so use a plural verb. If the fraction or percentage comes before a collective noun, follow the rules you learned in the collective nouns lesson in this module.

Is every student and teacher singular or plural? ›

Singular. When you say "every" or "each" in this context you are singling out members of a group (in this case, your "teacher" and "student" implicit group), and saying that they all have a property. You may have heard more singular use with the word "each" such as: Each student and teacher knows that exams are...

What are 10 examples of possessive nouns? ›

Possessive Nouns
  • Dog's collar. sister's backpack. car's engine. (dog + 's) (sister + 's) (car + 's) ...
  • Charles's sneakers. Bess's dresses. bus's tires. (Charles + 's) (Bess + 's) ...
  • Dogs' collars. sisters' backpacks. cars' engines. (dogs + ') (sisters + ') ...
  • Children's homework. fish's bowls. octopi's tentacles. (children + 's) (fish + 's)

What is the double possessive rule? ›


The general rule is that if it is a person, add the apostrophe + “s”. If it's an inanimate object, you don't need the apostrophe + “s”.

How do you write a plural possessive of a name that ends in s? ›

Rule: To form the plural of a last name that ends with an s, add an es. To form the possessive of the plural, add an apostrophe. The Dennises are a nice family.

What is a plural possessive apostrophe example? ›

To show possession in the plural form, all you have to do is put an apostrophe after the s. For example: Girls — girls' (girl + s + apostrophe) Friend — friends' (friend + s + apostrophe)

What is the plural possessive form of teacher? ›

Teachers' is the correct plural possessive noun, not teacher's.

Do you put a possessive apostrophe after a name ending in s? ›

Second, a name ending in s takes only an apostrophe if the possessive form is not pronounced with an extra s. Hence: Socrates' philosophy. Saint Saens' music.

When making a last name plural do you add an apostrophe? ›

When making your last name plural, you don't need to add an apostrophe! The apostrophe makes the name possessive. The last letter of your last name will determine if you add an “-s” or an “-es”. If your last name ends in -s, -z, -ch, -sh, or -x, you add -es to your last name to make it plural.

Where does an apostrophe go if a possessive noun ends in s? ›

Their practice is that any time a words ends in "s," you put an apostrophe after the "s" to make it possessive.

How do you use plural possessive at the end of a sentence? ›

Why would you end a sentence with a plural possessive? The most common reason is the completion of a simple sentence describing possession, such as this pair: This table is ours. (plural possessive pronoun)

What are the 3 rules of possessive nouns? ›

  • • Rule 1: To form the possessive of a singular noun, add an. apostrophe and s ('s) = car = car's.
  • • Rule 2: To form the possessive of a plural noun ending in s, add only an apostrophe (')= dogs = dogs'
  • • Rule 3: To form the possessive of a plural noun that does. not end in s, add an apostrophe and s ('s) = mice =

What is the possessive of child plural? ›

The plural of 'child' isn't 'childs' - it's 'children'. Although it's plural, it doesn't end in an 's'. So, to make it possessive, we add an apostrophe and an 's'.

What is the plural possessive form of family? ›

The plural of 'family' is 'families'. For example: ''There are two new families living in my neighborhood. '' Just be careful because it can sound like the possessive form (family's) which is used to talk about something that belongs to your family - e.g. ''my family's car broke down''.

What are 12 examples of possessive pronouns? ›

The independent possessive pronouns are mine, ours, yours, his, hers, its, and theirs. The possessive adjectives, also called possessive determiners, are my, our, your, his, her, its, and their. We break down each type and offer examples of their usage below.

What are 5 possessive adjectives examples? ›

Possessives: adjectives
SubjectObjectPossessive adjective
3 more rows

What are 3 examples of possessive pronoun? ›

The English possessive pronouns are mine, ours, yours, his, hers, theirs, and whose.


1. Singular & Plural Possessive Nouns
2. Plural Possessive Nouns
(Kristen Douglas)
3. Apostrophe S | 's or s' | Possessive Nouns in English | How to Form Plural and Singular Possessives
(Sparkle English)
4. Possessive S - English Grammar Lesson + MINI QUIZ
(All Things Grammar)
5. French Masculine Plural Possessive Pronouns
(Learn French With Alexa)
(Kevin Spaans)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kieth Sipes

Last Updated: 03/11/2023

Views: 6144

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (67 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kieth Sipes

Birthday: 2001-04-14

Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

Phone: +9663362133320

Job: District Sales Analyst

Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.