As much as experts try to make all languages more accessible to everyone, the English language remains a work in progress –just like the others.
In English, “possessives” are one of the trickiest concepts to master because a catch-all explanation cannot suffice in dealing with all of its nooks and crannies.
More particularly, people seem to wonder what exactly the possessive form of the singular noun “business” actually is; luckily enough, that’s what we are digging deeper into today.
Let’s start with knowing whether “business’s” or “business’” is the correct choice.
Which one is correct – “business’s” or “business’”?
Both “business’s” and “business’” are acceptable possessive forms of the singular common noun “business.” But, according to most style guides like the AP, APA, CMS, and MLA, “business’s” is the recommended variant. In actual language use, though, the simplified variant “business’” is more common.
Reviewing the grammar rules behind business’s and business’
Ownerships are also known as possessions, but possessions are not limited to physical properties alone as it also encompasses the idea of belongingness and relationship.
Apparently, to make these quite otherworldly concepts more understandable, humans make use of systematic language while interacting with one another in society.
The specific details as to how languages are arranged based on an organized rather than a random manner are covered in the area of syntax.
To understand this area better, our beginner-level guide on syntax briefly yet definitively explains what this field of discipline in language studies is all about.
More particularly, humans make use of the syntactic aspect of language under the grammatical construct “possessive nouns” in expressing the idea of possession.
Let us get deeper into the core of possessive nouns in the context of the English language to be able to deal with today’s inquiry.
Business’s vs. business’: Defining possessive nouns
The inquiry on whether “business’s” or “business’” is the right choice boils down to the construct on possessive nouns, which is also known as the genitive case in linguistics.
In English, possessive nouns are used in conveying the concepts of ownership, belongingness, or connection between two nominal (relating to nouns) entities.
We use possessive nouns in expressing attributes or qualities of nouns into words; that is, possessive nouns are specifically used to show the relationship of a noun to another noun.
Pronouns can also replace nouns in sentence construction, and possessive determiners are meanwhile based on possessive pronouns.
Having said that, possessive determiners can also be used instead of nouns in expressing the idea of possession or attributes.
Possessive nouns are made up of two main parts – the “possessor” and the “possessed.” These parts are inherently crucial in forming possessive noun phrases.
The possessor is the entity that owns or possesses something (e.g., Georgie’s), whereas the possessed is the entity being linked to the possessor (e.g., laptop).
Sometimes, some people refer to possessive nouns as “plural nouns” because of the suffix “-s,” but they are actually poles apart since possessive nouns function differently from plural nouns.
Pluralization can really be troublesome because of how some words like “candy” and “candies” touch another set of classification rules under countable and non-countable nouns.
Moreover, possessive nouns are also not considered contractions in grammar despite the similar use of the apostrophe and the suffix “-s.”
In particular, “he’s” is not a possessive noun but rather a contraction of the subject “he” and the linking verb “is”; “Stella’s card” is a possessive noun instead.
As possessive nouns are often interchanged and confused with plurals and contractions, they are often tricky to identify and hard to explain.
One great example that supports this contention is the several existing variations to the plural of “no” which is also dependent on language style and convention.
Plural nouns do not use apostrophes, and they are specifically formed from singular nouns by adding the suffix “-s,” “-es,” or “-ies.” Irregular plurals like “children” and “feet” also further exist.
Meanwhile, contractions are typically formed from nouns and verbs, and they may or may not use apostrophes. Examples of which include “can’t” and “gonna,” respectively.
However, possessive nouns make use of nouns, pronouns, and apostrophes; they can even be reworded with the help of determiners, articles, and prepositions to form more formal noun phrases.
By the way, the apostrophe used in forming possessive nouns is more technically known as the “Saxon genitive ‘s” whose job is to replace the function of “of” when forming possessives.
This means that possessive nouns entail a relatively more complex set of grammatical rules than plurals and contractions, and thus, they are taught more lately in school.
The complexity of the possessive noun rules is also best represented by the two variant possessive forms of “business” – “business’s” and “business’.”
While the two versions are predominantly used by many people around the world, one is preferred over the other.
“Business’s” is a more complicated form, hence advocating grammatical correctness.
“Business’” is more simplistic, hence avoiding overcomplication of grammatical rules.
This simply means that more people are in favor of the more practical version “business’” instead of “business’s” in actual language use.
Business’s vs. business’: Forming possessive nouns
Possessive nouns can be expressed in two major ways that further entails the usage of both the possessor and the possessed.
The first way, which is more formal, is to make use of the preposition “of” between the possessor and the possessed.
This process is shown, for instance, in the expression “fool of a took” used by a character in the popular fictional movie Lord of the Rings.
When this happens, the phrase expressing the idea of possession is only identified as a noun phrase in grammar.
The second way, which is more casual, is to make use of the Saxon genitive ‘s, which is also more commonly called the “apostrophe+s” in layman’s terms.
When this rule applies, the phrase indicating the idea of possession is more likely referred to as the possessive noun phrase by most people.
Nouns are also classified according to their grammatical number – singular vs. plural – hence, more set of rules apply when converting noun phrases into possessive noun phrases.
With nouns, note that some words may belong to more than one part of speech and function differently like “love” and “loves” wherein the former can either be a noun or a verb and the latter only a verb.
So, the careful observation of and adherence to grammatical rules is really necessary for talking about possessive nouns in overall cases.
Regular singular nouns that do not end in “s” are added with an apostrophe and the letter “s” when forming possessive noun phrases:
When forming the above examples based on pronouns, the possessors can be replaced with possessive determiners such as “its,” “her,” and “his.”
Regular singular nouns ending in “s” are formed either by adding an apostrophe alone or by adding the Saxon genitive ‘s.
This rule is particularly realized in forming the possessive noun form of the word “business,” which can either be “business’s” or “business’.”
However, in forming regular plural nouns that end in “s,” “-es,” or “-ies,” only an apostrophe can be added and not the Saxon genitive ‘s.
The rules above are responsible for making both “business’s” and “business’” universally correct possessive forms of the singular noun “business.”
But, in reality, more specific rules are further recommended by writing style authorities to make the English language even less disorganized in communication.
So, let us now go through what each of these writing style giants says based on today’s inquiry in the next section.
Business’s or business’: What style guides suggest using
Writing styles reflect many aspects of certain organizations and language communities, hence their importance in communication.
Journalists and news writers make use of the guidelines prescribed by the Associated Press (AP), while social and behavioral scientists follow the American Psychological Association (APA).
In addition, book writers, editors, and publishers adhere to the guidelines of the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), and people in the field of arts and humanities follow the Modern Language Association (MLA).
So, in deciding whether “business’s” or “business’” should go in your writing, let us consult each of these authorities for more clarity.
The Associated Press (AP) says it’s “business’s”
In AP style, the Saxon genitive ‘s is recommended for singular nouns ending in “s” unless the target word is a singular proper name like “Achilles” or “Nicholas.”
So, “Achilles’ heel” and “Nicholas’ son” should be used, for example, when dealing with singular proper nouns in writing.
Since “business” is a common noun like “bus” and “class”, then it has to make use of the Saxon genitive ‘s in sentence construction.
However, if the plural form of “business” is the target word, then only an apostrophe must be added in sentence construction.
These rules go to show that “business’s” is the default choice when it comes to journalism and news writing and not “business’.”
The American Psychological Association (APA) says it’s “business’s”
Meanwhile, the APA suggests a different approach to possessive nouns because the pronunciation of the word matters when adhering to this authority figure.
When the final letter of the singular noun is silent, the Saxon genitive ‘s does not have to be added at all, such as in the word “Descartes’.”
However, if the final “s” in the singular noun is pronounced, such as in the common noun “business” and the proper noun “James,” the Saxon genitive ‘s needs to be added.
In relation to our inquiry, the APA suggests using “business’s” rather than “business’” because the final “s” sound in the word “business” is pronounced and not silenced.
The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) says it’s “business’s”
Similarly, the CMS also clearly states that “business’s” is the recommended singular possessive form of “business” rather than “business’,” just like AP and APA.
This means that the CMS generally suggests adding an apostrophe and the letter “s” when forming possessive noun phrases, notwithstanding whether the word ends in “s” or not.
For CMS, all singular noun forms are added with the Saxon genitive ‘s regardless of its final letter (e.g., Descartes’s, business’s, Troels’s, class’s).
But for regular plural nouns like the expression “two weeks’ notice” in employee resignations, adding an apostrophe would already suffice.
Therefore, when adhering to CMS, the correct choice should be “business’s” and not “business’.”
The Modern Language Association (MLA) says it’s “business’s”
For MLA, plural nouns ending in “s” need only an apostrophe, so “businesses’” and not “businesses’s” is the right way.
But, singular plurals ending in “s” are also added with an apostrophe and a letter “s” when indicating possessions.
That is to say, the singular possessive form of “business,” as per MLA, is also “business’s” and not “business’.”
All in all, all the style writing style authorities listed in this post suggest using “business’s” rather than “business’” as the possessive form of “business” in writing.
But of course, as “business’” is still a more popular choice in general, this implies that people are still likely to support plain and simplified language use in all contexts.
Frequently Asked Questions on “Business’s or business’”
What is the difference between “business’s” and “businesses”?
The first word “business’s” is the singular possessive form of the word “business.” Meanwhile, the second word “businesses” is the plural form of the noun “business.”
What is the plural possessive form of “business”?
The plural possessive form of “business” is “businesses’.” Only an apostrophe is needed at the end of the word “business” to create its plural possessive form.
What is the plural form of “business”?
The plural form of the word “business” is “businesses.” This is formed by adding the suffix “-es” at the end of the singular form “business.”
Without the concept of possessions, we wouldn’t have been able to grow our own tomatoes in our backyard nor stand our ground against bandits and pirates.
Whew. That was weirdly deep.
All I’m trying to say is that human civilization wouldn’t have evolved, thrived, and survived had there been no way of expressing possessions through language.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.