Apostrophe Placement with Cow's Milk and Goat's Cheese
The Quick AnswerThe milk you buy from a shop is cow's milk not cows' milk.
- I cannot drink warm cow's milk.
- I find goat's cheese too overpowering.
Cow's Milk or Cows' Milk?Writers are often unsure whether to write cow's milk or cows' milk. This confusion arises because of a rule for the possessive apostrophe which states that the apostrophe goes before the s for a singular possessor (e.g., one dog's kennel) but after the s for a plural possessor (e.g., two dogs' kennel).
With milk, however, there is a quirk. It is not about how many cows produced the milk. It is about what kind of animal produced the milk. This is why the milk we put in our coffee is cow's milk (the milk of an animal called a cow) and not cows' milk (the milk from several cows). For example:
- I'm not sure this is cow's milk.
- I'm not sure this is cows' milk.
Cow's MilkThe milk you buy from a shop is cow's milk. (It translates best as the milk of a cow with the idea being the milk of an animal known as a cow as opposed to the milk of a single cow.) For example:
- Did you put cow's milk in the jug? It smells a bit like goat's milk.
- I only have two cows. This cow's milk is fine, but that cow's milk is watery.
Cows' MilkOf course, a situation could also arise when you need to talk about the milk of specific cows. For example:
- I only have two herds of cows. These cows' milk is fine, but those cows' milk is watery.