The possessive form is one of those things that you need to know about before mastering English. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as ABC, and certain words come with certain special rules. This article will look at the possessive form of “witness.”
Witnesses or Witness’s or Witness’: Which Is The Correct Possessive Form?
The correct possessive form for “witness” is “witness’s,” where the “S” letter applies after the apostrophe. There is one exception where “witness'” is correct, and that’s if the object following the word begins with an “S.” The plural possessive is “witnesses’.”
The possessive form adds an apostrophe to the end of a word and usually adds an “S” to that. That way, we can show the “witness” owns a certain object in the sentence and draw attention to that in some way.
All the forms of “witness” look like this:
The one exception is “witness'” which works when the word following “witness” begins with an “S.”
- Witness’ story
This is done because it would be a mouthful to read if we included the extra “S” in the singular possessive form. There would be far too many “S” letters present, creating quite a predicament for any reader.
We’ll start by explaining “witnesses,” which is the plural form of “witness.”
“Witnesses” is used when there are multiple “witness” people present. It is not a possessive form, and it simply shows that multiple people are being spoken about and are “witnesses” of some kind.
We can see it work in the following ways:
- How many witnesses do you have for this case?
- The witnesses are all ready to make their testimonies now.
- These witnesses have yet to give their formal statements.
- The witnesses are far too shaken up to talk to you about any of the events that unfolded.
- We haven’t got enough witnesses to take this to trial yet!
- We need more witnesses if we’re going to stand a chance against those bullies!
“Witnesses” is the simplest form we’re using here. The plural form just means there’s more than one person or entity in the context.
“Witness’s” introduces the first possessive case.
“Witness’s” is the singular possessive form of “witness.” We use it when a “witness” owns or possesses an object in a sentence. The apostrophe and “S” inform us that we’re dealing with the possessive case.
There is also an exception where the extra “S” is dropped. In this exception, any word that comes after “witness’s” must start with an “S,” and we’ll include some in the following examples:
- The witness’s testimony is finalized and ready for your perusal.
- What is the witness’ story about the events that occurred?
- The witness’s last testimony was nothing but hearsay!
- My witness’s privacy is compromised, and I’d appreciate it if you didn’t ask any more questions about them.
- This is the witness’ statement, and I thought you’d like to read it before you’re surprised by the content.
- My witness’s desire is to get this case closed as soon as possible.
“Witness’s” and “witness'” are both correct. However, it’s much more likely that you’ll use “witness’s” when talking about “witness” in the possessive form.
Now, this is where things get a little interesting. When working with the plural possessive form, a couple of the expected rules are changed.
“Witnesses'” is the plural possessive form, using “witnesses” and adding an apostrophe to the end. We use it when multiple “witnesses” own a particular object or group of objects in a sentence.
This time, we drop the extra “S” after the apostrophe because it is unnecessary and will add too many “S” letters to the word.
Imagine seeing it written as follows:
That’s four “S’s,” which is a lot to take in all at once. Not to mention it’s difficult to pronounce (we encourage you to try and get all of those “S’s” out coherently right now).
That’s why we drop the “S” at the end, and we stick to “witnesses’.” There are no exceptions to this rule either. Whether the next word starts with “S” or not is irrelevant, as there is never a need for “S” at the end of the word.
These examples will demonstrate what’s right and what’s wrong:
- Correct: The witnesses’ statements have all been gathered and reviewed thoroughly.
- Incorrect: My witnesses’s rights are upheld, no matter what agreement you come to.
- Correct: The witnesses’ powers, in this case, are much greater than you realize.
- Incorrect: The witnesses’s stories all support that this man is a criminal and needs to be jailed!
- Correct: The eyewitnesses’ testimonies show the same thing.
- Incorrect: These witnesses’s reports have been redacted, and I think someone has spooked them!
Remember, you must always drop the “S” when writing the plural possessive form of “witnesses’s.”
Quiz: Have You Mastered Witnesses Or Witness’s Or Witnesses’?
Now that we’ve covered all the differences between the words and the possessive forms, it’s time for a quick quiz. We’ll see whether you’ve remembered everything we’ve taught you about the singular and plural possessive forms.
- The (A. witnesses / B. witness’s / C. witnesses’) believe that he is not telling the truth, and they’d like you to review the case.
- My (A. witnesses / B. witness’s / C. witnesses’) have a lot of faith in the system. Don’t let them down.
- The eye (A. witnesses / B. witness’s / C. witnesses’) testimony is very important for the proceedings of this trial.
- A (A. witnesses / B. witness’s / C. witnesses’) trust is important to any self-respecting attorney.
- All of the (A. witnesses / B. witness’s / C. witnesses’) reports have been filed away now, and hopefully, that’s the end of it.
“Witness’s” is the correct singular possessive form, though “witness'” also works in the cases where the next word starts with an “S.” The plural possessive form isn’t all that common, but you must remember to use “witnesses'” without the extra “S” when you do so.
You may also like: Bosses or Boss’s or Boss’? (Correct Possessive Explained)
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.