We have a city here in Canada named Saint John's. It is always spelt that way; the 's is part of the name (this must be a very unusual case, I'm not sure).

What would be the correct way to refer to something the belongs to it? 'Saint John's' mayor', 'Saint John's's mayor', or ... ?


I'll be honest with you: most English speakers wouldn't know what to do here. None of the style guides I checked gives clear guidance for this situation. If we were to follow the closest applicable suggestion, to add 's for any singular proper noun, even if it ends with s, we would get

St. John's's mayor

Interestingly enough, my spell checker doesn't even mark this as wrong, although it's clearly ungainly as heck.

The best suggestion I found was, "Avoid awkward possessives" -- which in this case means you should write:

The mayor of St. John's

If you absolutely must use the possessive, I'd go with either

St. John's' mayor

or simply

St. John's mayor

More in-depth discussion of this here: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/89705/possessive-form-of-a-proper-noun-ending-in-a-plural-noun-ending-in-s

  • 1
    Good answer. I was just in the middle of starting one of my own and will now stop. :) It doesn't matter what is "correct" if it looks incomprehensible. So, just rephrase it to avoid the problem. As for the name of the city, the St. John's website says, among other things, that "Prowse maintains that it would have been known as the "harbour of St. John’s Island" which could account for the possessive form, St. John’s, instead of St. John." Jul 16 '18 at 16:01

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