Parent's or Parents: How Do You Spell It?

By Carly Forsaith, updated on August 12, 2022

Is it parent's or parents? Or is it parents'? How do you spell it? This apostrophe and 's' combination trips up a lot of people. But don't worry, by the end of this article, you will be completely clear on which one to use - not only in the case of the word 'parent' but in all possessive situations.

The short answer is this:

  • Parent is the singular, non-possessive form of one parent. Use when signifying a single parent.
  • Parent's is the possessive form of one parent (singular). Use when signifying possession by a single parent.
  • Parents is the plural of the noun 'parent.' It is non-possessive. Use when signifying multiple parents.
  • Parents' is the possessive plural of the noun 'parent.' Use when signifying possession by multiple parents.

Which Form to Use: How to Spell Parent's or Parents

Let's talk about the word 'parent' specifically. When should you use -'s and when should you use -s'? We will also cover some examples.

'Parent's' or 'Parents': Using Possessives

First, a word on possessives. It is a grammatical concept that enables you to talk about ownership. Using -'s and -s' allows you to show that something belongs to a thing, person, or place. For example:

  • My dog's paws are very furry.
  • My mum's brownies are the best in town.
  • New York's subway system is very efficient.


A parent, as you know, is a child's guardian - the person who brings up and cares for them. The word 'parent' is singular - meaning it is just one person - and there is no apostrophe, so it is non-possessive.


If you want to use the possessive form to talk about one single parent, then you would use -'s. For example:

  • We need a parent's signature.
  • A parent's love for their child is a strong bond.


'Parents' is the plural of the noun' parent.' There is no apostrophe; therefore, it is non-possessive in this context. Here are a couple of examples of the word used in a sentence:

  • My parents said I couldn't go to the party.
  • We need to arrange a meeting with all the parents.


When you want to use the possessive form to talk about more than one parent, i.e., both parents or many parents, then you would use -s'. For example:

  • Both parents' signatures are required.
  • We investigated parents' perceptions of school support during the pandemic.

'Parent's' or 'Parents'

Beyond 'Parent's' or 'Parents': More on Possessives

Using the Possessive Form

The rules outlined above apply to all nouns. So if a noun is singular, you use -'s to make it possessive, and if it is plural, you use s'. Here are some more examples:

  • That isn't John's pen.
  • Her cousin's favorite game is hide and seek.
  • A zebra's coat is striped.
  • I love exploring my city's parks.

Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns

You might also find it helpful to know that you can use possessive adjectives and pronouns. Here is a list of possessive adjectives:

  • My - That's my favorite color.
  • Your - What is your name?
  • Her - Have you seen her artwork?
  • His - Numbers aren't his specialty.
  • Its - The dog is chasing its ball.
  • Our - Welcome to our home!
  • Their - I'm going to dinner at their place next week.
  • Whose - Whose idea was this?

As you can see, these possessive adjectives all show ownership between a person or thing and the noun.

And here is a list of possessive pronouns:

  • Hers - She thought
  • His - John knew the job was his.
  • Mine - It was never mine to begin with.
  • Theirs - Which house is theirs?
  • Ours - Those seats over there are ours.
  • Yours - What's mine is yours.

Bonus: Possessive apostrophe when the word ends with an 's'

You should know one more thing about using the possessive form -'s, which applies when a word or name ends with the letter 's.'

There is some debate around this topic, which is why you should know about it. You might sometimes see -s' being used with a singular noun or person. For example:

  • It's Chris' turn.
  • The seagrass' role in marine conservation is essential.

That is because some style books and other authorities have determined this should be how we form a possessive from a noun that ends with an 's.' Many, however, still agree that we should use the usual conventions, and therefore, you should still use -'s. As such:

  • It's Chris's turn.
  • The seagrass's role in marine conservation is essential.

Suffice it to say no one will hold it against you if you use either of these forms. Pick the one that feels most logical to you.

Final Thoughts on 'Parent's' or 'Parents'

I hope the issue of forming the possessive out of nouns feels more evident to you now and that you know when to use 'parent's' or 'parents'. Make sure to also check out our other articles on confusing words.

Let's summarize how to spell parents:

  • Parent: one parent, singular
  • Parent's: ownership of one parent
  • Parents: two or more parents, plural
  • Parents': ownership of two or more parents

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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