Understanding James’ or James’s: A Simple Guide

When it comes to showing possession in English, especially with names ending in “s,” many people find themselves puzzled. Should you add just an apostrophe or an apostrophe followed by another “s”?

This guide will help you understand how to use James’ and James’s correctly, providing clear examples to illustrate these possessive forms. We aim to make this explanation as straightforward as possible, ideal for a Hemingway grade 3 understanding.

James’s (Singular Possessive)

The form James’s is often used to show possession for something that belongs to someone named James. This follows the general rule of adding ’s to a singular noun to make it possessive, even if the noun already ends in “s.”


  • James’s book was on the table.
    • (The book that belongs to James)
  • James’s car is parked outside.
    • (The car that belongs to James)
  • It’s James’s first day at school.
    • (The first day of school that belongs to James)

James’ (Alternative Singular Possessive)

James’ is an alternative form used to show possession that is also acceptable, especially in the context of classical or traditional grammar rules. This form is often preferred when writing or in formal settings, making the text easier to read or sounding more fluid in conversation.


  • James’ book looks interesting.
    • (The book that belongs to James)
  • James’ opinion is important to me.
    • (The opinion that belongs to James)
  • We were at James’ house yesterday.
    • (The house that belongs to James)

Read More: Understanding Louis’s and Louis’

Plural Possessive: An Uncommon Case

For the name James, there isn’t a direct plural possessive form because “James” is a singular name. However, if you are talking about a family with the surname James, you might encounter a scenario where a plural possessive could be used, such as The Jameses’ house (indicating the house belongs to the James family).

Understanding the Differences: A Table

Here’s a simple table to summarize the use of James’s and James’:

FormUsageExample Sentence
James’sSingular possessive (modern use)James’s book was on the table.
James’Singular possessive (traditional)James’ book looks interesting.

Tips for Remembering

  • If you prefer modern grammar rules, use James’s.
  • If you lean towards traditional grammar or if it sounds better in the sentence, use James’.
  • Remember, both forms are correct; it often comes down to personal or institutional style preference.

Understanding when to use James’ or James’s can be tricky due to differing style guides and personal preferences. However, both forms are accepted, and the choice between James’s and James’ often depends on the context and the writer’s or institution’s style preference. We hope this guide has made these possessive forms clearer and easier to use in your writing.

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