Nicholas’ or Nicholas’s: Navigating the Possessive Apostrophe

In the world of English grammar, few topics generate as much debate and confusion as the proper usage of the possessive apostrophe. One particular source of contention is how to denote possession when it comes to names ending in “s,” such as “Nicholas.” Should it be “Nicholas’” or “Nicholas’s”? Let’s delve into this matter and shed some light on the intricacies of possessives in English.

Understanding Possessive Apostrophes

Before we delve into the specifics of “Nicholas’” versus “Nicholas’s,” let’s review the basics of possessive apostrophes. In English, the possessive form is typically indicated by adding an apostrophe and an “s” (‘s) to the end of a noun. This signifies that the noun possesses or owns something. For example, “the cat’s tail” indicates that the tail belongs to the cat.

General Rules for Forming Possessives

  • For singular nouns not ending in “s,” add ‘s. For example, “the dog’s bone.”
  • For singular nouns ending in “s,” there are differing conventions.
  • For plural nouns not ending in “s,” add ‘s. For example, “the children’s toys.”
  • For plural nouns ending in “s,” add only an apostrophe. For example, “the girls’ dresses.”

The Nicholas Dilemma

Now, let’s address the specific issue of names ending in “s,” such as “Nicholas.” Should we write “Nicholas’s” or “Nicholas’”? Both forms are widely used, but style guides and preferences may differ.

Nicholas’s: The Traditional Approach

The form “Nicholas’s” follows the general rule for forming possessives with singular nouns. By adding ‘s, we indicate that something belongs to Nicholas. This form is widely accepted in both American and British English.

Example Sentences:

  1. Nicholas’s car is parked in the driveway.
  2. The book on the table is Nicholas’s.

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Nicholas’: The Apostrophe Only Approach

Some style guides and individuals prefer the form “Nicholas’” for possessives of names ending in “s.” This approach argues that adding another “s” after the apostrophe can be cumbersome or visually unappealing, especially in longer or more complex names.

Example Sentences:

  1. Nicholas’ birthday party is next week.
  2. That is Nicholas’ seat at the front.

Navigating Usage: Style Guides and Preferences

The choice between “Nicholas’s” and “Nicholas’” often comes down to personal preference or adherence to a specific style guide. Different style guides may offer conflicting advice, further complicating matters.

Associated Press (AP) Style

The Associated Press Stylebook, commonly used in journalistic writing, generally favors dropping the additional “s” after the apostrophe for clarity and simplicity. Therefore, “Nicholas’” would be the preferred form in AP style.

The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS)

Conversely, The Chicago Manual of Style recommends adding ‘s to all singular nouns, including those ending in “s” like “Nicholas.” Therefore, according to CMS, “Nicholas’s” would be the appropriate form.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Style

MLA style typically follows the same guidelines as CMS, recommending ‘s for singular nouns ending in “s.” Hence, “Nicholas’s” would be the preferred form in MLA style.

Scenario Examples

Let’s explore some scenarios to illustrate the usage of “Nicholas’” and “Nicholas’s” in different contexts:

Possessive with Singular Nouns

  • Nicholas’s: Nicholas’s car is parked outside.
  • Nicholas’: I’m going to Nicholas’ house for dinner.

Joint Possession

  • Nicholas’s: That is Nicholas’s and Emily’s wedding photo.
  • Nicholas’: I found this in Nicholas’ and Emily’s room.

Possessive with Plural Nouns

  • Nicholas’s: Nicholas’s children are very well-behaved.
  • Nicholas’: I saw Nicholas’ and Emily’s children at the park.


In conclusion, the debate over “Nicholas’” versus “Nicholas’s” reflects the nuances and variations within the English language. While both forms are commonly used, the choice often depends on individual preference or adherence to a specific style guide.

Whether you opt for “Nicholas’s” or “Nicholas’,” the key is to maintain consistency throughout your writing. As long as your usage remains clear and coherent, your readers are likely to understand your intended meaning, regardless of which form you choose.

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