I've seen many questions asking about the punctuation of words ending in possessive S. There are also many questions asking about the pronunciation of possessive S when a noun already ends in an S. And there are also some answers here and there which give the rule for the S clitic/suffix in general (as when applied to plurals). However, there are no questions that ask about, or answers that give—so far as I'm aware—a full and clear account of the pronunciation of possessive S and when and whether this clitic is actually applied.

Is there such a question kicking around somewhere?

  • If not, would you like to ask such question?
    – user 66974
    Aug 10, 2018 at 10:38
  • @user070221 Yes, I'll ask it :) I think it's the kind of question/answer that we should have here. Aug 10, 2018 at 10:47
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  • @mari But it already explains in my Q that "there are already many Qs about nouns already ending in S" :) Aug 10, 2018 at 23:38
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks for the helpful edit :) Aug 11, 2018 at 0:57
  • @Mari-LouA Thanks for the links, but Tchrist's answer there is about the punctuation and its relation to the pronunciation. It doesn't explain the rules about the pronunciation (in other words the rules about the morphology: when do we actually pronounce the S/Z possessive clitic, for example). Aug 11, 2018 at 1:06
  • It seems to me that the question How do I pronounce “s's” and “s'”? is the question you would want to answer, yet it was closed as a duplicate of What is the pronunciation of the possessive words that already end in s? which in turn was closed as a duplicate of Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe?, which has an answer by tchrist's. So it seems to me that if you want to ask a new question about the pronunciation of S/Z when it is used to make a noun possessive, the post risks being closed as a duplicate of the latter.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 11, 2018 at 14:48
  • @Mari-LouA It seems to me that the question How do I pronounce “s's” and “s'”? <-- That question already assumes the suffix has been apllied, it doesn't ask when the suffix is applied. Take for example "[That cousin of John's]'s wife". The issue there is not do we add the apostrophe S? to which the answer will inevitably be It depends on the pronunciation. Neither is it Do we say "That cousin of John'ses wife?", because the answer to that will inevitably be No, because we write "that cousin of John's wife", there's no extra 'S and so there's no extra syllable. Aug 12, 2018 at 14:13
  • @Mari-LouA You get the problem with the current posts? The answer is: we don't add a posessive clitic here, because we don't add aposessive clitic to another S clitic or suffix. In other words, I'd like to see a question about a) the grammar and b) how that grammar is phonemically expressed. What do you think? Aug 12, 2018 at 14:21
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    I'm not sure I follow you. I see answers that talk about pronunciation and transcribe these pronunciations using IPA. If you feel that none of the questions nor answers linked really explain what you want to discuss, then go ahead and post your question! What have you to lose?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 12, 2018 at 17:01
  • ell.stackexchange.com/questions/74308/… Is this what you're looking for, @Araucaria?
    – user71740
    Aug 14, 2018 at 21:21

1 Answer 1


There is a question asking about the pronunciation of words spelled with 's—and you posted an answer to it back in 2016! The answer addresses the basic allomorphic alternation between /s/, /z/ and /ɪz/. It is somewhat short, so I think it would be possible to update it with a section about "when and whether this clitic is actually applied", even though the question doesn't explicitly ask for that.

What's the rule for pronouncing “’s” as /z/ or /s/?

  • Thanks @sum but as mentioned in my question, that's just the general rule for S clitics, which has been mentioned in other answers too here and there. But it doesn't deal with the circumstances in which the clitic is applied or not-particularly in the case of possessives. Aug 10, 2018 at 23:35
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    @Araucaria: I think you mentioned two parts in your question: 1) "the pronunciation of possessive S" and 2) "when and whether this clitic is actually applied". I think the linked question fully covers 1). I suggested that you could edit your answer to address 2) as well; another option could be to cover 2) in an answer to a separate question (like Which singular names ending in “s” form possessives with only a bare apostrophe? or What is the correct possessive for nouns ending in “‑s”?).
    – herisson
    Aug 10, 2018 at 23:38
  • @Araucaria: I don't think there needs to be another question that asks about both 1) and 2); I'm not sure whether one exists already. Is there some third thing that you think should be explained that I have missed?
    – herisson
    Aug 10, 2018 at 23:41
  • If you were right about the basic aspects of the question being covered, I would still majorly disagree with you. Why would we want to build a repository of useful answers for readers where they couldn't get an answer to this basic question on one page. Why do you think it would be better for them or for Stack Exchange for them to have to go to two pages? And how would they get simply and easily from one to the other - almost as if they'd been professionally organised? Aug 11, 2018 at 0:15
  • However, those don't answer the question in the first place. And to reiterate, why would you make people have to go to two pages (probably only joined together through about twenty other links through several series of closed questions) to get an answer anyway? That would make this just about the worst (vaguely educated/professional) site one could come to on the web to get an answer to a basic question about English. What is this site for? Aug 11, 2018 at 0:19
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    @Araucaria: Could you edit the question to include an example of the kind of question ("this basic question") that you'd like to answer/see answered? I'm confused about what you mean by "if you were right about the basic aspects of the question being covered". Are you no longer satisfied with your answer there? As I asked in a previous comment, is there some third aspect to the pronunciation of 's that you think is not covered by any of the questions that have been mentioned so far? You seem to be assuming that we disagree, but I don't even understand what you want yet.
    – herisson
    Aug 11, 2018 at 0:23
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    @Araucaria: there can be various problems with posting new questions about topics that are covered by existing questions; e.g. the lack of ability to compare different answers and the existence of more questions that people have to look through in site search. Obviously these have to be weighed against the benefits of having related information on the same page. I don't know what you mean by implying that it's impossible to "get simply and easily" from one page of this site to another: that's what links are for.
    – herisson
    Aug 11, 2018 at 0:27
  • Well, the aspect that isn't covered in my answer (because it's only about the [s/z] clitic in the broadest sense for both plurals, possessive's and third person S) is when is it applied or not applied as a possessive. Put it like this, if you were teaching this rule to an elementary student of English, if they followed the description would the inadvertant mistakes's effects be obvious to a native speaker? Aug 11, 2018 at 0:28
  • "That's what links are for" I think you are speaking from a nerd-view point of view. Have you tried following the links here about basic questions. Going through twenty pages of not properly answered (or not properly asked) questions from one closed question to another is a complete pain in the posterior, and it makes the site look shoddy. In fact it makes the site be shoddy. Aug 11, 2018 at 0:32
  • @Araucaria: I'm confused about why you keep on grouping the possessive, plural and third-person singular [s/z/ɪz] and calling them a "clitic". I don't think that either the plural marker or the third person verb marker is a clitic; only the possessive/genitive suffix is. Your answer there doesn't indicate that it's meant to be about plurals and third person S, and I don't see why it would make sense to cover that (except for possibly as a side note) in an answer to a question that asks about the pronunciation of apostrophe-s.
    – herisson
    Aug 11, 2018 at 0:32
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    @Araucaria: But if you ask a new question, you're just adding to those twenty pages ... it won't erase all the existing questions, with possibly inadequate answers, about the same topics. I'm not a fan of the way this site deals with basic questions but I don't think it's that helpful to re-post them and re-answer them.
    – herisson
    Aug 11, 2018 at 0:33
  • Well, you and I disagree about that, then. I think that having an answer that deals with a whole question that might reasonably be asked is beneficial. And having a canonical answer as opposed to a posy of half-answers that people randomly link to because they can see a common word in the two questions is more harmful than beneficial. So, there we go, we disagree. That's fine. But, if you think that this simple single question can be answered with two existing questions already, please tell me which two questions this one question might be answered by. Aug 11, 2018 at 0:56
  • The reason for giving that answer there, is not everyone who asks about "apostrophe S" is asking about a possessive, and every one of those examples could be an example of the cliticised version of the verb BE [Which is indeed a clitic] Aug 11, 2018 at 1:33

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