Witness’ or Witness’s?

The term witness’s is the standard singular possessive of witness and you should use this form when following AP Style and the Chicago Manual of Style. E.g., “The witness’s testimony was unclear.” However, witness’ is also a common singular possessive form in both American and British English.

Here is a table that shows the different possessive and plural forms of witness.

Singular possessiveWitness’s / Witness’
Plural possessiveWitnesses’

As you can see, the plural form is witnesses, and you can make the plural possessive by adding an apostrophe to the end.

Here are some example sentences so you can see the forms in context.

  • Singular: The police have a witness who says that he saw the crime.
  • Plural: The authorities have appealed for witnesses.
  • Singular possessive: The witness’s answer in the courtroom was unexpected.
  • Singular possessive: The witness’s signature appears on the bottom of the marriage certificate.
  • Plural possessive: The witnesses’ recollections of the events were all the same.

Furthermore, if you are following the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style, you should use witness’s.

However, if the following word begins with “s,” you should use witness’ instead.

  • The witness’ summary of the events was vague.

Using possessives correctly in English can be tricky, and you don’t want to make a mistake. Therefore, you should read the rest of the page to learn more about the different forms of witness.


The term witness’s is the standard singular possessive form of witness. Therefore, you can use it when you want to say something belongs to a witness.

When people are discussing witnesses in a possessive context, it is usually to refer to their role as a witness to something. Therefore, opinions, words, and memories are common things that can belong to a witness.

Here are some example sentences of how to use witness’s in this context:

  • The lawyer asked for the witness’s description of the suspect.
  • The witness’s testimony was crucial for the prosecution’s case.
  • The witness’s account of events differed from that of the defendant.
  • The witness’s demeanor was calm and composed during the cross-examination.
  • The police carefully noted the witness’s observations for further investigation.

Furthermore, the AP Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style both state that you should use witness’s as the singular possessive form.

However, when the following word begins with “s,” you should remove the “s” from witness’s.

Review these examples to understand what we mean:

  • The witness’ speech to the court was unconvincing.
  • The witness’ statement was entered into evidence.
  • The witness’ signature was required to validate the affidavit.
  • The witness’ sobriety was questioned by the defense.
  • The witness’ speech was filled with inconsistencies.


The word witness’ is a singular possessive form of witness. Therefore, you should use it to refer to things that belong to a witness.

More often than not, because of the meaning of the word witness, you will use it to refer to words, memories, or statements belonging to a witness.

These examples should help you understand when to use witness’:

  • The witness’ memory of the events was accurate.
  • The witness’ account was corroborated by video evidence.
  • The witness’ credibility was challenged during cross-examination.
  • The witness’ description helped the police sketch artist create a likeness of the suspect.
  • The witness’ demeanor during questioning raised some concerns.

Furthermore, even though witness’s is the “standard” singular possessive, the form witness’ is still frequent in both American and British English.

Therefore, as long as you are not following a particular style guide, you can use witness’ as a singular possessive form.

However, in formal writing that follows AP Style or the Chicago Manual of Style, you should only use witness’ when the following word begins with “s.”

These examples show how witness’ in this case:

  • The witness’ statement was brief yet concise.
  • The witness’ story was verified with additional evidence.
  • The witness’ statement was cross-referenced with other accounts.
  • The witness’ speech during the trial was emotionally charged.
  • The witness’ signature was required to finalize the deposition.


The word witnesses is the standard plural form of witness, meaning you use it to mention several witnesses simultaneously.

Here are some examples of how witnesses can be used in a sentence:

  • The four witnesses all contradicted each other.
  • The witnesses were interviewed separately to avoid influencing each other.
  • The three witnesses had consistent stories, strengthening the case.
  • The witnesses were asked to identify the defendant in a lineup.
  • The credibility of the witnesses was a key factor in the trial.

Furthermore, you can make the plural possessive form by adding an “s” to witnesses. You can use this form to indicate that something belongs to more than one witness.

These example sentences show how to use the plural possessive of witness:

  • The witnesses’ police protection was around the clock.
  • The witnesses’ testimonies were aligned with each other.
  • The witnesses’ accounts were compiled into a detailed report.
  • The witnesses’ cooperation was crucial for solving the case.
  • The witnesses’ inconsistencies made the jury skeptical.