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"Dubai Customs" is a government department in Dubai. When we want to mention its employees, for example, what should we say?

  • Dubai Customs' employees

or

  • Dubai Customs employees

Thank you.

migrated from writing.stackexchange.com Mar 26 at 9:33

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  • Welcome Yousef, and no hard feelings but I voted to close for the same reasons @Secespitus mentioned - this is more a question about the English language than it is about writing. Since both versions can be correct, it is also largely an opinion-based question. We also like it here if questions show some personal research effort and are specific. If you do think your question belongs here, try editing it to pinpoint what it is that you are trying to figure out. – Spectrosaurus Mar 26 at 8:45
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There are two discussions which are worth having.

  1. The use of genitive when talking about the employees of a special business / institution

I will use a company name which does not end in "s" - Cisco (can be anything else: 3ware, Adobe, Google...)

Cisco's employees

The use of the genitive implies the idea of belonging: the employees of Cisco. Without any modifier (e.g. "some of"), it implies the idea of all people working at Cisco.

Cisco employees It refers to the people working at / having a relation with Cisco, without any sense of belonging. It also refers (without using modifiers) to some of the employees, but not necessarily all of them.


  1. What if the company name ends in "s"?

The discussion is the same as previously, it is just the form of genitive which looks different. While in writing there is an apostrophe, in speech there is no difference between the two.

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Grammatically, "Dubai Customs' employees" is correct, as the apostrophe shows the possession.

The one without it can be used too, though. (Dubai Customs acting as an adjective, not the possessor, and describing where the employees are belonging to.)

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    On ELL, it is welcome if you explain the "why" also: why is it OK to use the one without too? :) – virolino Mar 26 at 9:55
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There are two ways of looking at this question.

1. If you want to use the possessive, then it is:

All of Dubai Customs' employees can go home early today.

This is similar to:

All of Jim's shirts are extra large.

  • This describes who the employees or shirts belong to. You can tell that the possessive works because the sentence sounds natural when you put all of in front of it.

2. If you want to use the proper name as an attributive noun, rather than indicating possession, then it is:

I am a Dubai Customs employee.

This is similar to:

I am a Paul McCartney fan.

  • This describes what type of employee or fan I am. You can tell that the proper name is being used as an adjective because the sentence sounds natural when you put I am a in front of it.

Both of these formulations are fine, although the meaning is different. But since the question specifically has the possessives tag, it's the first version that would be used to indicate that sense.

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