Lady’s, ladies, and ladies’ are easily confused words. All these words sound basically the same, but the trouble comes when they are written down or typed out:
- Do you need an apostrophe?
- If you do need an apostrophe, is it before or after the S?
The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary, but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted, or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.
Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.
Lady’s (lay-deez) has multiple meanings.
As a possessive (note the apostrophe is before the s)
- It is used to indicate ownership of something by one individual female person.
- It is used to indicate ownership by a person named Lady.
- It is used to indicate ownership by a creature, like a pet dog or cat, named “Lady.” For example: Lady’s collar was in the driveway. I think she’s run away again. Thankfully she is chipped.
As a contraction, it is a shortened form of “lady is” or “lady has.” Here the apostrophe is indicating letters have been left out. An example of this usage would be found in dialogue by store staff, restaurant floor staff, or poll workers, and referring to a woman in third person.
- Possessive: This lady’s receipt is torn in half. Will we still accept it for a refund or should I give her a store credit?
- Contraction: This lady’s been waiting to check out for five minutes. Would you ring her up?
- Possessive: I found that lady’s purse in the bathroom/washroom/loo. Someone needs to call her to come pick it up.
- Contraction: That lady’s saying we forgot her fries.
Ladies (lay-deez) is the plural form of lady. It is used to refer to a group of women, or address a group of women directly.
- at the beginning of a live show, the emcee says “Ladies and gentlemen…” to let the audience know to get ready for the show about to start, please sit down and stop talking. If the audience were made up of all women, the emcee would say “Ladies..”
Ladies’ (lay-deez) this is the plural possessive form, note the apostrophe is after the “s.” It is used to refer to something belonging to, or designed for, a group of women.
For example, the Ladies’ restroom/washroom/loo, or the Ladies’ wear portion of a department store.
The following story uses these words correctly:
A server at the cafe asked “Ladies! We found what looks like a lady’s jacket and we thought it might belong to one of you.”
One woman piped up and said, “I don’t think so. It is fuchsia and none of us were wearing that today.”
“All right, well thank you for joining us today. I’ll put it back by the register.”
Just then a man dashed in and asked, “Excuse me, is that a pink jacket?”
“Yes it is,” the server responded.
“Is it a ladies’ size 6?”
The server looked at the tag: “It looks like it is.”
“My daughter left it here. She was preoccupied with her phone and forgot it. We were almost in the theater ticket window when she realized she didn’t have it. I don’t want to have to buy another jacket on the fly in the ladies’ department today. She won’t like any of them. We have a movie to get to and it starts in–10 minutes!”
The server smiled awkwardly as she handed him the jacket.
The man responded, “Oh right. Why am I telling you all this? Thank you for the jacket. I have to go.”
“Bye. Glad we could help.” The server chuckled and waved.