I'm reading an wikipedia article:

(...) was sentenced to five years' probation and one year in the House of Correction (...)

Why five years' has an apostrophe? What does that sentence mean?


The English genitive (-'s for singular nouns, -' used on plural nouns; more commonly known as the possessive) can be used in some expressions of time to associate something with the length of time.

Hundred Years' War
one week's notice
a good night's sleep
a hard day's work

In your case, the genitive is denoting that the probation was five years in duration, with a similar construction to "Hundred Years' War" and "Seven Years' War" (those are actual names of wars). "One week's notice" is notice given during the week before something happens.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.