Can a possessive S be attached to nouns that are not human beings (or animals)?

For example, instead of saying "the back of the chair", can I say "the chair's back"?

I remember learning that not everything can get a possessive s, but this issue is not clear to me.

  • 3
    The possessive 's can be applied to anything, not just living things. Some people think it's bad form to use it with inanimate objects, but it's not a rule; you can use it with anything and be grammatically correct.
    – stangdon
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:09
  • Thank you. so then can I use it also for plural forms - such as: "people's money" (instead of "money of the people")? Nov 14, 2016 at 19:48
  • 1
    Yes, it can be used with plural forms too, although if the word ends with s we just add an apostrophe instead of apostrophe s: people's money, boys' clothes, cats' feet, oxen's horns, etc.
    – stangdon
    Nov 14, 2016 at 19:55
  • 1
    The possessive can be used with any noun, but for many nouns it's more common to use "of" when describing composition (e.g. the back of the chair)
    – eques
    Nov 16, 2016 at 17:08

1 Answer 1


You can use it with any noun phrase, animate or not; but there is a tendency to use it with things that have volition (people, animals, organisations).

So if I search for "chair's" in the NOW corpus, there are 613 hits; but (on my count) 94 out of the first 100 are using "chair" in its sense of "chairman/chairwoman of a meeting or organisation", and only six mean an inanimate object.

Similarly, "street's" gets 6262 hits, but almost every one is following a name (a third of those are "Wall Street's", and another 800 are "Coronation Street's", "Sesame Street's" or "Downing Street's" - all of these are or can be quasi-persons.)

Having said that, "car's" and "kitchen's" (for example) certainly do get some hits.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .