Sometimes, nouns have different singular and plural forms. Take “person,” for example. “Person” is singular, but “people” is plural. This can make it tricky to figure out the possessive form rules that come with it. This article will help you to understand those rules.
People’s or Peoples’: Which Is the Correct Possessive Form?
The correct plural possessive form is “people’s.” The rule is to take the plural form of the noun and add an “‘s.” “Peoples'” is incorrect as the plural possessive form of “person.” In rare circumstances, you might find it works to refer to a group of people within a community.
Perhaps this table will help you to understand more about it.
The confusion here comes from “people” not following “person” when it is pluralised. It doesn’t follow the rules that you might expect when dealing with the possessive form.
For example, regular nouns would look like this:
For a regular noun, like “clock,” the possessive rules are simple. The singular possessive form has an “‘s” added to the end of the singular noun. The plural possessive form only has an apostrophe added to the end of the plural noun.
However, this does not work for “people.” “Peoples” is an entirely different plural noun from “people,” which is why it’s best to avoid using it when trying to come up with the plural possessive form for “person.”
“Peoples” is not the correct plural form of “person.” However, it is correct if you are using it to identify a group of people within a specific country or community.
“Peoples” is an old-fashioned plural form that rarely comes up today. Most of the time, “people” is the word you will want to use.
Still, here are some examples to show you how to use “peoples” in a sentence:
- The Europe peoples did not want to do anything that would get them into trouble.
- The Arabaian peoples of this society fought long and hard for the world they have now.
In almost every case where “peoples” is used, “people” is a more suitable choice. “Peoples” is a dying word that rarely gets used today.
You should not use “peoples” as the plural form of “person.” These examples will show you why that doesn’t work:
- Correct: We are not able to talk to the people about this. I don’t think they want to share with us.
- Incorrect: The peoples of this world are not always in agreement. That’s why we have to change tactics.
- Correct: People are not going to be here to help you if you don’t ask them. You have to get out there.
- Incorrect: I told the peoples what I wanted to do next. None of them came with me.
“People’s” is the plural possessive form of “person.” This is the only acceptable form to use when showing ownership of an object.
The plural possessive form allows “people” to own an object or group of similar objects in a sentence. You should include the object directly after the plural noun to show what is owned.
Here’s how to use “people’s” in a sentence correctly:
- I wanted to be the people’s mascot, but none of them liked me enough. It was a big blow to take.
- I thought you were the people’s friend. It turns out they don’t like you any more than they like him.
- She was the people’s favourite, but everything went wrong after she returned. I don’t know how it happened.
- The people’s votes are in. I’m afraid there’s not much else we can do now. We have to wait.
- What about all the people’s lives that are out here? You are risking them for no good reason!
“Peoples'” should never be used as the plural possessive form for “person.” It is incorrect when used in this way.
You might find “peoples'” works when using the plural possessive form of “peoples.” “Peoples” is very uncommon today, and “people” is almost always a better alternative.
Here are some examples to show you how “peoples'” works (in rare instances):
- The Israeli peoples’ wishes have finally started to come true.
- The wartorn peoples’ needs have not been met.
However, it’s almost impossible to find a suitable instance where “peoples'” works.
Instead, it’s best to refer to the following examples to remind yourself that “people’s” is the plural possessive form used for “person:”
- Correct: The people’s names are very important to me. I think it’s wise for you to write them down so I can return to them.
- Incorrect: I’m not going to be in the peoples’ lives anymore. There’s really not much of a reason for me to stick around.
- Correct: People will always talk about things they don’t understand. It’s best if you let them do their thing.
- Incorrect: The peoples’ voices will be heard. It’s only a matter of time before someone starts to listen to them.
“People’s'” is never correct to use as it includes too many apostrophes. If you are going to write it, you only need to place an apostrophe between the “E” and the “S.”
Adding more than one apostrophe to any word can lead to confusing situations. It’s best to stick to “people’s” when you want the possessive form to work in your writing.
These examples should help you to remember the correct form:
- Correct: I am not going to talk about people’s lives anymore. It’s up to them what they want to do with them.
- Incorrect: They counted the people’s’ votes, but nothing came of them. I think it ended up being a draw.
- Correct: If it weren’t for the people’s wishes, he wouldn’t still be in office. A lot has happened since he signed up.
- Incorrect: The people’s’ houses have been damaged by the storm. Surely, there’s something you can do to fix them.
“People” is the plural form, making “people’s” the plural possessive form. “Peoples” is only used when referring to the plural of a group of people within a country or community. It’s rare to ever come across “peoples'” as the plural possessive form. If in doubt, use “people’s.”
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.