Grammar check: business or business’s?

If I want to say, “examine the customers of your business” but I’d like to

If I want to say, “examine the customers of your business” but I’d like to use the contraction form of “business” is it “examine your business’s customers” or “examine your business’ customers”?

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11 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

“Examine your customers.”

Why complicate it?

lillycoyote's avatar

You’re wanting to use the possessive form of business which is correctly spelled as business’s. It’s not a contraction, it’s a possessive form.

lillycoyote's avatar

You’re wanting to use the possessive form of business which is correctly spelled as business’s. It’s not a contraction, it’s a possessive form.

But @iamthemob is also right. Business’s is just a little awkward. It probably might be better to phrase it some other way. Another option might be to say: “Businesses: examine your customers.” That is a stronger statement, if you want to make a strong statement that is.

Jeruba's avatar

What does it mean to examine your customers, anyway? Perhaps the whole idea needs a little more thought before you look for the right wording and the correct spelling.

ratboy's avatar

Whatever you do, you’ll be wrong according to someone:

Possessive Form of Singular Nouns Ending with S
February 17, 2005

Many people struggle with the possessive case of singular nouns when the words already end with s. The general rule is this:
Form the possessive singular of nouns with ‘s.

Here are some examples:

* James‘s cat
* Mrs. Jones‘s attorney
* Dr. Seuss‘s book


Of course, we’re talking about the English language, so we’re going to have some exceptions to the rule. While grammar books and style guides don’t necessarily agree on how to determine these exceptions, most consider a word’s pronunciation. Here is what a few of the books say:

* “If pronunciation would be awkward with the added -’s, some writers use only the apostrophe. Either use is acceptable.” (Diana Hacker, A Writer’s Reference)
* “Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is [such as Achilles’ and Isis’], the possessive Jesus’, and such forms as for conscience’ sake, for righteousness’ sake.” (Strunk and White, The Elements of Style)
* “With some singular nouns that end in -s, pronouncing the possessive ending as a separate syllable can sound awkward; in such cases, it is acceptable to use just an apostrophe.” (Kirszner & Mandell, The Brief Holt Handbook)
* “Since writers vary in the use of the apostrophe, it is not possible to make a hard and fast rule about the apostrophe in singular words ending in s.… Punctuate according to pronunciation.” (John E. Warriner, English Grammar and Composition)

cazzie's avatar

I always thought it was s’ once you hit two ss. The Smiths’ cat. or the business’ customers. When do you use that? My English is seriously going to hell as I learn and use Norwegian more and more.. so I’m not to sure about anything any more.

Seelix's avatar

I would use businesses’. I was always under the impression that it was better to use s’ when the noun is plural.

gailcalled's avatar

As always, Jeruba’s suggestion makes the most sense.

The minute you mention “your customers,” it is understood who they are. And when I was trying to rephrase your sentence, I had trouble parsing what you meant,

What information do you want to glean from your customers? Location, size, net worth, frequency of placing orders?

Jeruba's avatar

Exactly, @gailcalled: before you can arrive at optimal wording for an expression, you must know the meaning of it.

This is one of the editor’s perpetual dilemmas: correctly inferring meaning from an expression containing errors that obscure meaning. About half of my marks on documents are queries rather than changes, for that reason. It’s easy to replace a wrong construction with a right one; remaining faithful to the author’s intended meaning is the hard part.

To examine a person usually means to do something like what a doctor does to a patient on an examining table (unless you’re speaking of examining a witness in a courtroom). I’m afraid this expression caused me to picture a businessperson staring at his customers’ bodies through a huge magnifying glass. Instead perhaps it should say something about getting to know them, studying their demographics or their preferences, etc.—whatever it is that the OP actually has in mind.

cazzie's avatar

hahaha. I like that, @Jeruba . I guess they’re trying to say something like, ‘looking at who the customers are.’ In this regard, I would think ‘examine’ would be a bit too strong a verb. ‘Take a closer look at’ might express the meaning better. ‘Take a closer look at who the customers are.’ Or ‘Take a closer look at the business’s customers.’ (that is if it is singular business, if it is plural .. (businesses) then the possessive spelling is businesses’ . Correct?

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

If a single customer: examine the customer’s business.
If a group of customers: examine the customers business
Singular cusomer with more than one business: examine the customer’s businesses

That is how I would tackle it.

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