Attributive Nouns…Veteran’s Day, Veterans’ Day, or Veterans Day?

In observance of Veterans Day, I thought we could use this blog post to give a BComm-style shout out  to our veterans and service members.

Veteran’s Day? Veterans’ Day? or Veterans Day? Answer: Veterans Day.

Of course, the “Veteran’s Day” (-‘s) option does not really even make sense. But why not create a plural possessive by adding the apostrophe after the -s? In the case of Veterans Day (no apostrophe), “Veterans” is not a possessive noun; it is an attributive noun. That is, “Veterans” is an attribute (adjective) indicating the type of “Day,” not an indicator of possession. Thus the correct spelling omits the apostrophe.

Knowing whether a noun is attributive or possessive is not always clear–and knowing whether the noun is a singular possessive vs. plural possessive (e.g., Mother’s Day, not Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day) can also be tricky. My Chicago Manual of Style tells me that many times attribution and possession are matters of style and that writers should think carefully regarding the intent to communicate possession vs. attribute when determining whether to use an apostrophe.

Students will want to consult a good dictionary or company Web site to determine possession vs. attribution. In the case of “Veterans Day,” I found my answer on the Department of Veterans Affairs (no apostrophe in that name either) FAQ Web page.

If you or your students would like some practice with attributive and possessive nouns, please use this Apostrophes: Attributive vs. Possessive Nouns worksheet as you wish.

Many thanks to all of our veterans and service members!

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