Class’s or Class’: Singular, Plural, and Possessive

While the apostrophe may be the bane of many a middle schooler’s existence, the tricky apostrophe can trip up adults just the same. Many of us think we understand the rules governing plural and possessive forms, but misuse is prevalent.

The word “class’s” is the singular possessive form of the word “class.” The plural possessive form of the same word is classes’. Class with a single apostrophe at the end, class’, is incorrect. It is not a logical form of the word, despite class ending with an -s. 

The rules governing the use of apostrophes at the end of words are changing as written language evolves. To examine the changes in language and where grammarians apply these new rules more commonly, keep reading.

Class and Classes

The word “class” refers to a group of students for a specific subject or course. It is a collective noun, and while it does refer to multiple people, you should use it in the singular form. 

We generally use “class” in an educational space, and it has different meanings outside schooling. Another meaning of class refers to specific groups within society divided along socioeconomic lines.

“Classes” refers to multiple groups of people, and it is the plural form of “class.” Because the singular form already ends with -s, the rules governing plurality dictate that you will find -ses at the end of the plural form (source). 

Differentiating between Class’s and Classes’

There are two functions to an apostrophe: possession and omission. In our particular example, we will discuss the possessive qualities of the apostrophe when it relates to class and classes.

There are particular rules for possessive apostrophes and a few strategies you can use to ensure that you use the correct one. For other comprehensive answers, check out Dreyer’s English, an excellent and succinct style guide available on Amazon.

Rule 1

You can change most singular nouns into their possessive form with the simple addition of an -‘s at the end of the word (source). 

Examples:

  • “The car that belongs to the man” becomes “The man’s car.”
  • “The dreams the student dreamt” becomes “The student’s dreams.”
  • “The house that belongs to Jane” becomes “Jane’s house.”

Singular nouns are the simplest word class to change into their possessive form, but, as with all rules of grammar, there are a few exceptions. 

Rule 2

Plural nouns generally end with an “s” and do not require the addition of -‘s to create a possessive form. These words only need an apostrophe, and you can read them as-is without changing the pronunciation.

Examples:

  • Charles’ home is beautiful.
  • The boys’ teacher punished them today.
  • Did you hear? Someone robbed the Jones’ house yesterday!

The reason for this exception is that words become clunky when you use double-s sounds, and strange pronunciations are liable. For example, if we gave the name “Charles” an -‘s at the end, we would have to pronounce it like Charles-zis.

Rule 3

If a plural word does not end with an “s,” then an -‘s should be added to change it to its possessive form. 

Examples:

  • The children’s garden is growing nicely.
  • The men’s uniform shone in the sun.
  • The oxen’s enclosure had a break-in.

Rule 4

When a proper noun ends with an “s,” like someone’s name, then the sound of the word is generally your best guide. The general rule is to only add an apostrophe at the end of the name, but some words may sound better with an -‘s (source).

Examples:

  • Achilles’ heel was the source of his weakness.
  • Mr. Jones’ house fell into disrepair.
  • Barbados’s beaches are an absolute delight!

There is no consensus around the addition of only an apostrophe or -‘s to the end of words that end in “s.” Therefore, the key is consistency. Whatever rule you choose to use, ensure that it remains the same throughout your writing.

However, there is a lot more consistency in the word “years,” although it also has a similar grammatical classification as “class.” To find out how best to use “years” in all its forms and with the correct punctuation, read, “What Is the Difference Between Years and Year’s?” 

Some newspapers seem to follow a rule where they use an -‘s after common nouns that end with an “s” and only an apostrophe after proper nouns that end with an “s.”

In the word “class’s,” we place the apostrophe and additional “s” directly after the ending “s” in class to show that you are only referring to one class. The word that follows “class” is the object that belongs to the class. 

Examples:

  • This class’s mural is the best — the “mural” belongs to the class.
  • The class’s students are so badly behaved — the “students” belong to the class.
  • It was the middle class’s rebellion — the “rebellion” belongs to the middle class.

When referring to multiple classes in the possessive form, the word changes to its pluralized counterpart “classes” and, thereafter, has the apostrophe at the end without any additions.

This does not change the pronunciation of the word but indicates its new meaning.

Examples:

  • The classes’ trip is going to be an amazing one — the “trip” belongs to all the classes.
  • All high school classes’ dream is to graduate with honors — the “dream” belongs to all the classes.
  • The middle and upper classes’ fights will never stop — the “fight” belongs to the classes, even though they are on different sides.

For more nuanced meanings of the word “class,” read The New Oxford Essential Dictionary. Available on Amazon, this handy guide will ensure that every word you spell and use is perfect.

The rules for singular and plural apostrophes are quite simple, and you can easily apply them to “class” and “classes.” However, the rule of words ending in “s” creates a debate at times.

Image by CDC via Unsplash

Class’s Versus Class’

Again, “class’s” generally serves as the better option for the plural possessive form of “class,” but there is some leeway for “class’.” Generally, when writing, it is best to follow the rules of a specific style guide.

For example, the Modern Language Association (MLA) style guide has some more specific rules set out for using apostrophes on words that end with an “s” (source).

Rule 1

If the proper noun that ends with an “s” is a singular entity, you only need to add an apostrophe at the end, despite its being in a plural form.

Examples:

  • The United States’ political situation is changing.
  • Los Angeles’ nightlife is fabulous!

Rule 2

If the proper noun is singular and refers to an individual, then we’ll add an -‘s to the end of the word.

Examples:

  • Atticus’s fight for the downtrodden is important.
  • Linus’s youtube channel is pretty entertaining.
  • It looked like Alexis’s luck had finally run out.

The Chicago style of writing also shares this philosophy with -‘s added to the end of words that refer to individuals (source).

Since so many writing styles tend to lean towards the addition of -‘s after singular entities, let’s break down how that applies to the word “class.” 

Since you would generally use  “class”  as a single entity, previous rules would indicate arguments both for using only an apostrophe and for adding an -‘s to the word.

“Class” is a common noun that ends with an “s,” so it should only have an apostrophe following it.

However, common usage of this rule has changed over time, and “class” is one of the modified words. Even the Supreme Court Justices have a preference, and the majority have started adding -‘s at the end of words that end with an “s,” such as “Congress” (source).

If there are other points that you struggle with, like the word “today” and its possessive form, read the article on todays or today’s to find out how to differentiate between them.

Tips to Remember

There are several quick tips to help you remember the correct usage of an apostrophe.

Singular nouns take an -‘s when written in the possessive form. Plural nouns that end with an “s” only take an apostrophe. Plural nouns that do not end with an “s” take an -‘s.

You can use several strategies when indicating possession through the application of these rules.

Strategy One

To whom does the object belong? When there is a clear indication that the object belongs to someone, you should use an apostrophe.

Examples:

  • The house belongs to Elizabeth, so this is Elizabeth’s house.
  • The dog had dreams about bones, so the dog’s dreams were full of bones.

There are exceptions to this basic rule, however. If there is more than one subject, then the second subject is the one that takes the -‘s only.

Examples:

  • This is Edward and Isabella’s baby.
  • Laurel and Hardy’s movies are classic comedies.

The only time both singular subjects would each take an -‘s is when the object is plural and each one belongs to both of them.

Examples:

Neville’s and Hermione’s classes are the best in the school.

This indicates that both Hermione and Neville have a class.

The boy’s and girl’s houses were far from one another. 

This indicates that the boy and girl live in individual houses.

When it comes to names that end with an “s,” they generally just take an apostrophe at the end, even though they are a singular noun.

Exceptions to these rules are the words “class” and “congress.” Since they refer to singular entities, they follow the rule of taking an -’s at the end, despite already ending with an “s.”

Another exception refers to words that already contain an apostrophe, like “McDonald’s.” These words do not take an “s” or an apostrophe and remain in their original state for the possessive form.

Strategy Two

When dealing with plural nouns, focus on what letter the word ends with. If it ends with an “s,” then it takes an apostrophe only. If it ends on any other letter, then it takes an -’s.

Examples:

  • The dogs’ house is a very smelly place.
  • These children’s fashions have changed since I was young.

Strategy Three

We often think that the object must directly follow the possessive form of the noun, but this is not always the case. When written in the passive form, the subject can still take the apostrophe even if it is not followed directly by the object.

Examples:

  • This computer of Steve’s is an excellent one!
  • This house is the Khan’s, and then we’ll go to Kumar’s place.
  • To the left is my artwork, and to the right is Anne’s.

Strategy Four

Generally, the use of apostrophes deals with nouns, whether proper or common. However, there are possessive pronouns, and many people make the common error of adding apostrophes to those, especially “its.”

Since “its” usually involves an apostrophe in its contracted form (it’s – short for “it is”), many people think that the possessive form should also include an apostrophe. 

Like all possessive pronouns, “his,” “hers,” “yours,” “ours,” and “its” are all possessive without the need for an apostrophe. 

Examples:

  • Her results are brilliant, and she’s sure to receive a scholarship!
  • The animal couldn’t believe its luck!
  • These are my snacks, and those are yours.

Apostrophes and their usage become second nature the more you write. Spelling and grammar checkers are generally on hand to find your common mistakes, but if you do get stuck, these strategies should be able to help you.

Final Thoughts

We grew up understanding that there were many rules for apostrophes and, quite often, we would get them wrong. 

As the world becomes more globalized, the move away from prescriptive English has begun. Many people think that understanding the language is more important than getting the placement of an apostrophe exactly right.

Whether you use “class’s” or “class’,” the main thing is to stay consistent. No one will be breaking down your virtual doors or failing your essays for your methodology.

If they are, share this article, and remind them that grammatical rules are not always hard and fast.

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