To “S” or Not to “S”—That is the Question! 

Capitol S - To S or Not to S?In English, we add the letter s to different kinds of words for different reasons.

For example, adding “s,” “es,” or “ies to a noun shows that the noun is plural (more than one).

one car I see two cars on the street.
one dress She has two dresses in her closet.
one city I have lived in two cities.


  • We add ies when we delete y.
  • We add es when the noun ends with  ssshchtch, or x.
  • We add s in all other cases.

We also add “s” “es” or “ies” to verbs. We do this for third-person singular (he/she/it) verbs in the simple present tense.

  • buy
    • he/she/it + s
      • She buys bread every day.
  • guess
    • he/she/it + es
      • He usually guesses in class.
  • study
    • he/she/it -y  +ies
      • The machine studies faces.


Rules for adding -S, ESL

We add an apostrophe + s (’s) or an apostrophe () to nouns to show possession (that something belongs to someone or something else).

  • regular singular noun
    • car’s phone’s man’s Ken’s
      • The car’s engine is broken.  (The engine belongs to the car.)
  • irregular plural noun (not ending in s)
    • men’s women’s deer’s
      • The deer’s hooves are sharp. (The hooves belong to the deer.)
  • plural nouns ending in s
    • cars’ phones’
      • The phones’ ringers have been turned off.  (The ringers belong to the phones.)
  • irregular nouns ending in s
    • knives’ hooves’
      • The knives’ edges are sharp.  (The edges belong to the knives.)
  • names ending in s
    • Gates’ Bliss’
      • Bill Gates’ company is successful.  (The company belongs to Bill Gates.)

Finally, we might add ’s as an abbreviation for the words “is,” “us,” or “has

It’s (It is)

      It’s a nice day today.

It’s a nice day today.

      There’s an empty table.

Let’s (Let us)

       Let’s sit there.

He’s (He has)

       He’s never married.

In conclusion, when trying to decide to “s” or not to “s,” ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it a plural noun? 
  • Is it a third-person singular verb?
  • Is it something that belongs to something else?
  • Is it an abbreviation?

If you answer “yes,” you need some form of “s.”  If you answer “no,” you do not.We add an apostrophe + s (’s) or an apostrophe (’) to nouns to show possession (that something belongs to someone or something else)