Peoples’ and People’s Possessive: A Guide to Proper Usage

The English grammar can be confusing sometimes. Determining the appropriate word to use amongst two words with similar spellings and only a little difference in meaning can be a Herculean task. For example, which is the most appropriate? Peoples’ or people’s?

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    Is it People or Peoples?

    1. People

    This is the plural form of the noun person. It describes the entire body of persons who constitute a community, nation, or another group by religion and history. For Example, the people of Europe,the French people.

    Example in sentences:

    • The people of Europe are good.
    • People think the boss is cruel.
    • Young people need proper education.
    different people in a gathering smiling and lifting hands
    Photo by Nicholas Green on Unsplash

    2. Peoples

    The word ‘peoples‘ is used as the plural form of people to refer to groups of people belonging to different nations, tribes, or communities. Peoples is used to distinguish between ethnic groups within the same cultural or geographical context.

    Examples:

    • The exam will focus on the cultures and peoples of the region.
    • Peoples from different nations participate in the Olympics.

    The Apostrophe Rule for Possessives

    Apostrophe is used for several reasons. The most common is to join two words in a contraction and to form the possessive of a noun.

    The possessive form of a noun represents ownership or relationship. In most cases, the apostrophe (‘) governs how to present the possessive nouns. The standard apostrophe rules are:

    1. Use an apostrophe + (s) after a regular noun to show possession.

    • My father’s car is white.
    • Johnson’s school bag is lovely.
    • Mary’s friends are friendly.

    2. Use an apostrophe without an (s) at the end of a plural noun to show possession.

    • My parents‘ bedroom is enormous.
    • The boys’ house is beautiful
    • The African peoples‘ opinion is valid.

    3. For plural noun forms that do not end in (s), add an apostrophe + s to form the possessive.

    • The children’s room is untidy.
    • The people’s vote led to the installation of a credible leader.

    Peoples’ or People’s: The Difference

    The primary difference between people’s and peoples‘ is the context in which they occur. People’s and peoples’ are possessive noun forms. While people’s is the possessive of the word people, peoples’ is the possessive of the word peoples – the plural of people.

    Use people’s when implying ownership of a collective group of humans belonging to a particular nation, community, or ethnicity. The appropriate use of the word‘peoples‘ is to show possession of groups of people belonging to different countries, communities, or races.

    Examples:

    • You shouldn’t try to live up to people’s expectations
    • The people’s sense of self-esteem and worth is high.
    • You can’t continue using other people’s belongings.
    • The people’s mind is made up.
    • So much value is placed on the Israel and Europe peoples‘ hope and love.

    To Wrap Up

    It might be challenging to know when to use peoples‘ or people’s in writing. This article has differentiated both words and provided good examples to help you understand the difference.

    Peoples’ and People’s Possessive: A Guide to Proper Usage

    Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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