S, s (ɛs)
n., pl. Ss S's, ss s's.
1. the 19th letter of the English alphabet, a consonant.
2. any spoken sound represented by this letter.
3. something shaped like an S.
4. a written or printed representation of the letter S or s.
9. Also, s south.
11. state (highway).
12. Gram. subject.
1. the 19th in order or in a series.
2. Biochem. serine.
an ending used to form the possessive of most singular nouns, plural nouns not ending in s, noun phrases, and noun substitutes: man's; women's; James's; witness's (or witness'); king of England's; anyone's.
[Middle English -es, Old English]
1. contraction of is: She's here.
2. contraction of has: He's been there.
3. contraction of does: What's he do for a living?
Archaic. a contraction of God's: 'sdeath; 'sblood.
a contraction of us: Let's go.
a contraction of as: so's not to be late.
a suffix used in the formation of adverbs: always; betimes; unawares.
[Middle English -es,
Old English; ultimately identical with ' s1
-s2 or -es,
an ending marking the third person sing. present indicative of verbs: walks; runs; plays.
[Middle English (north) -(e)s
, Old English (north); orig. ending of 2nd pers. singular; replacing Middle English, Old English -eth -eth1
-s3 or -es,
an ending marking nouns as plural (weeks; days; minutes
), occurring also on nouns that have no singular (dregs; pants; scissors
), or on nouns that have a singular with a different meaning (glasses; manners; thanks
occurs with a number of nouns that now often take singular agreement, as the names of games (billiards; checkers
), of diseases (measles; rickets
), or of various involuntary physical or mental conditions (d.t.'s; giggles; hots; willies
). A parallel set of formations, where -s3
has no plural value, are adjectives denoting mental states (bananas; crackers; nuts
); compare -ers
[Middle English -(e)s, Old English -as]
a suffix of hypocoristic nouns, generally proper names or forms used only in address: Babs; Fats; Suzykins; Toodles.
[probably from the metonymic use of nouns formed with -s3
, as boots
(in prescriptions) mark; write; label.
[< Latin signā]
[< Latin socius]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
1. used to form possessives
When a singular noun refers to a person or animal, you form the possessive by adding 's.
I heard Elena's voice.
They asked the boy's name.
Everyone admired the princess's dress.
She patted the horse's nose.
When a plural noun ends in s, you form the possessive by adding an apostrophe '.
I try to remember my friends' birthdays.
He borrowed his parents' car.
When a plural noun does not end in s, you form the possessive by adding 's.
She campaigned for women's rights.
The children's toys go in this box.
When a name ends in s, you usually form the possessive by adding 's.
We went to Carlos's house.
I'm in Mrs Jones's class.
In formal writing, the possessive of a name ending in s is sometimes formed by adding an apostrophe '.
This is a statue of Prince Charles' grandfather, King George VI.
You don't usually add 's to nouns that refer to things. For example, don't say 'the building's front'. Say 'the front of the building'.
We live at the bottom of the hill.
She'll be back at the end of August.
You can add 's to the following pronouns:
Sometimes it helps to talk about one's problems.
One of the boys was riding on the back of the other's bike.
The possessive forms of other pronouns, for example my, your, and her, are called possessive determiners.
3. other uses of possessives
In British English, you can add 's to a person's name to refer to the house where they live. For example, 'I met him at Lisa's' means 'I met him at Lisa's house'.
She was invited to a party at Ravi's.
British speakers also use words ending in 's to refer to shops and places offering services. For example, they talk about a butcher's, a dentist's, or a hairdresser's.
There's a newsagent's on the corner of the street.
I went to the doctor's because I kept getting headaches.
You can use be and a short noun phrase ending in 's to say who something belongs to. For example, if someone says 'Whose is this coat?', you can say 'It's my mother's'.
One of the cars was his wife's.
Why are you wearing that ring? It's Tara's.
Don't use this construction in formal writing. Instead use belong to. You also use belong to with a longer noun phrase. For example, say 'It belongs to the man next door'. Don't say 'It is the man next door's'.
The painting belongs to someone I knew at university.
4. other uses of 's
Apart from its use in possessives, 's has three other uses:
- It can be a shortened form of is, especially after pronouns.
He's a novelist.
There's nothing to worry about.
- It can be a shortened form of has when has is an auxiliary verb.
He's got a problem.
She's gone home.
- It can be a shortened form of us after let.
Let's go outside.
Let's not argue.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012