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Appendix:Special uses of possessives in English

Possessive nouns marked by "'s" are used colloquially in a number of situations in which the object of "possession" is not explicitly mentioned in the conversation. These forms are now often interpreted as plural, for example at the cleaners instead of the traditional form at the cleaner's (which is still the only form in some[1] dictionaries), to justify what is felt to be more modern spelling without an apostrophe, even in official usage. They were traditionally spelled with an apostrophe because this is grammatically correct, as can be seen with forms such as go to the doctor's, which cannot be reinterpreted as plural. Some of the most common are:

Places of businessEdit

Common nouns (trades or professions)Edit

Such possessives are not strongly distinct in meaning from the plain form of the corresponding noun in meaning in most cases. "I went to the doctor" and "I went to the doctor's" often have exactly the same meaning. But "doctor" might be more general in that one might go to see the doctor at a hospital or a clinic, not necessarily the doctor's own facility.

  1. (retail establishment associated with a trade or profession): baker's, barber's, blacksmith's, bootlegger's, butcher's, confectioner's, dentist's, doctor's, dry cleaner's, florist's, grocer's, greengrocer's, hairdresser's, jeweller's/jeweler's, newsagent's/news agent's, stationer's, tailor's, undertaker's, vet's.

Proper nounsEdit

These may be the name of the business or indicate the place of business of a particular person.

  1. (name of a business): Mom's, Joe's, Sainsbury's
  2. (place of business of a person): Jack's, Smith's, Jack Smith's, my uncle's.

Note that in British usage, particularly colloquial speech, but sometimes in official writing as well, the apostrophe may be dropped, as in Barclays. See possessives in business names and s-form.

Places of residenceEdit

In other contexts the place referred to is more likely to be a place of residence.

Uncapitalized nounsEdit

  • (places of residence): mother's (my mother's house), my uncle's (the house of my nearby, favorite, or only living uncle), my neighbor's (the house of any one of those in my neighborhood, the house of one of my immediate neighbors), the doctor's (the house or surgery of a local doctor)

Capitalized nounsEdit


Public restroomsEdit

The desire to avoid direct reference to toilets has led to many indirect euphemisms. Gender-separated public restrooms were popularized in the 19th century and initially referenced as the gentlemen's and ladies' lavatory- or toilet-rooms. They are now generally shortened to men's and ladies' rooms, but even the "room" is sometimes omitted:


Medical conditionsEdit

The noun part of a medical condition (such as syndrome or disease) is sometimes dropped, as in Alzheimer's, Down's, Raynaud's.