Q&ACategory: GrammarPossession: 's and s'
Liux Asked 2 years

Hi all,
As we all know, we use ” ‘s and s’ ” to show possession as in “my sister’s scarf” or “my parents’ house”. Last week, I came across this sentence in an article about learning English–“Student participation is highly needed in a language classroom.” I understood the meaning of this sentence but had a question about grammar. I doubted if the expression “student participation” was used correctly here. I have seen many expressions like this such as “students’ homework” and “students’ presentations”, but why didn’t the writer use “students’ participation” here? Is there any difference in the meaning of “student participation” and “students’ participation?” If yes, what’s the difference? If not, are they both correct and mutually replaceable?
Please feel free to give your opinions. Thanks! 

1 Answers
Best Answer
iamuwajimaya Staff answered 2 years

This is a fantastic question. In the situation you mentioned ‘student participation’ and ‘students’ participation’ have pretty much the same meaning here, but that’s only because it is in this particular situation.
The grammar is like this:
Student (adj.) Participation (noun)
Students’ (possessive noun) Participation (noun)
In the first example, the KIND of participation is the kind done by students. Just like how we use yellow as an adjective to describe a kind of shirt. 
In the second example, the participation BELONGS to the students. It is theirs. They possess it. So, the meaning here is close, but the focus is different.
However, there are cases in which the two can give completely different meanings.
For example:
Apple’s pie (a person named Apple has a pie)
Apple pie (a pie made with Apples)
Chicken soup (soup made with chicken)
The chicken’s soup (the soup belongs to the chicken. We don’t know what kind it is)
The business plan (the kind of plan: related to business)
The business’ plan (this business has a plan. It is theirs)

aileeailee replied 2 years ago

Quite clear explanation.

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