Submitted by Dyske  •  November 27, 2002

Two Weeks Notice

There is a movie out called “Two Weeks Notice”. Shouldn’t this be “Two Week Notice”?

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Neither 'Two weeks notice' nor 'Two week notice' are correct. It should be 'Two weeks' notice' with the apostrophe signalling the omission of the word 'of' rather than possession of anything.

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Can I, once and for all, put an end to this debacle? If I was to give notice of one week to someone I would give them one week's notice, not one week notice. In that one statement I have proved that the apostrophe is there because of the possessive. If you are giving more than one week of notice it is still a possesive and an apostrophe is still required. The rule about plural possessives comes into play and an apostrophe is required after the "s"; Two Weeks' Notice. End of argument. Don't listen to anyone who says differently; they have a twisted, illogical, and muddled mind. One more time for the record; Two Weeks' Notice. Thank you and good night.

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Strangely enough I also had an argument about this at work just yesterday. I have recently left teaching in order to take up a less stressful position in a call centre and as I am rather new my supervisor (an averagely bright girl of about 24 or 25) decided she must check a letter that I had prepared for a client. I had assumed that she just wanted to check that I had the correct information in there, but she began to overtype the part where I had written "You will receive a renewal invitation in two or three weeks' time...", and removed the apostrophe. The only correction she had made was to remove the apostrophe, but as the document was to have my name on it I was concerned and explained to her that I was not happy to add my name to something which I knew to be incorrectly punctuated. She insisted that my way was wrong, and in hindsight I suspect that her confusion was due to the current furor about so called "grocers' apostrophes" (e.g. in banana's). I cannot claim to be an authority on the subject as I was a science teacher, not an English teacher,. however I have an English teacher friend who assures me that "two weeks' time" is correct, and since I have looked into the subject I also find this reference in wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_Weeks_Notice
where reference is made to Lynne Truss's book "Eats Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation." in which she cites the example of the film title "Two Weeks Notice" as incorrectly punctuated because there should be an apostrophe after the "s".
Now, whether Ms Truss is the final authority or not, I do not know, but my mother was extremely hot on punctuation and used to speak to me at greath length about it and so I follow her example. I am also supported by an English language graduate, another friend who is a journalist) not for "The Sun", I presume!) and a best selling book. There is another site, The Apostrophe Protection Society website, which may or may not be of help.
http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/
Definitive argument for or against? I have no idea, but then who decides which words are allowed in scrabble? A scrabble society? I have no idea, again, but if so then there should at the very least be an English punctuation society, by Royal Aproval. I wonder what stance Her Majesty would take on the matter. We could always ask HRH Prince Charles, I suppose; he really ought to know! :-)

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People, people. I was in the Royal Shakespeare Company for many years, and have written novels. Language is ever changing like the roads of the planet, but most remain the same for convenience and posterity and nostalgia. That has not stopped the US (some 500 million) changing orientATed into oriented, the former still spoken by a modest 65 million Britons. Some would say the majority are correct. Two weeks' notice (correct) is one of those tricky language anomalies which is well documented and must be learned. We cannot decide there are more than 5 vowels because it is an hour or an MA. We spell yacht and xylophone as we do because they have evolved that way. There are rules governing spelling, capitalisation, and punctuation too. I agree with Pammi and highly recommend Lynne Truss's book (notice the split infinitive - not a hard and fast rule anymore). The ridiculous pitfalls created by poor punctuation are amusing, but also a warning. Play around with language and we're back up the tower of Babel. Those of you citing the genitive sense are correct, and those blinkered by the 'possession' of the notice must remember the length of notice is denoted by the time. It is not possessed by the two weeks but it is shaped by them in the sense and meaning. It is the same as The Hundred Years' War. Take away the 'Hundred Years' and it's just The War. Those citing the missing 'of' are correct in approach, the apostrophe is not replacing the word 'of' specifically, but realises and displays the connection between the weeks and the notice. There are many ways of saying it...the worker's notice was two weeks long, he was given notice of two weeks, the notice he gave was of two weeks in length (the weeks possess the length there) The history of the grammar will tell the unsure, go to the Oxford English Dictionary to be certain - those guys think these things inside and out, so you can be sure everything's been considered. Stick to the smallest rules and we're all singing from the same song sheet. 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves'. To some, the oriented person is of the Orient. To others Captain Kirk, and then Picard, should have 'gone boldly', and the debates continue with lessening detriment to understanding until many thousands went to see 'Two Weeks Notice' without thinking about the missing apostrophe. We must continue the debate, however trivial it may seem to most, and I applaud you all for your two minutes' toil reading this epistle.

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I shall endeavor to resolve the issue in accordance with the previous three posts, albeit more succinctly...

One week's (worth of) notice
Two weeks' (worth of) notice

The genitive element of measurement is satisfied by definition as well as that of possession insofaras the week (or weeks) possesses the 'worth' even in the more commonly used case where the words 'worth of' are absent but still implied.

Furthermore, in spite of the fact that I happen to agree with Mahogany135, I take umbrage to his suggestion that those who do not have a "twisted, illogical, and muddled mind." On the contrary, anyone who takes the time to visit sites such as this one for the purposes of settling such questions is to be lauded for their efforts regardless of the correctness of their arguments. Language is ever evolving, and we should be as well.

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Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, people say I'm an authority on English grammar and punctuation; I've been teaching little else for 46 years! I can confirm that the above posting is absolutely and unequivocally correct; it's "Two Weeks' Notice". Just apply the plural-possessive rule that, surely, every schoolchild's been taught.

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Since this post has been going on for nine years now, it's unlikely that the originator of the question (and the early responders) still care what we're saying, but one can find a definitive answer in what I have always considered to be the best reference source for writing: "The New York Public Library Writer's Guide to Style and Usage." (Sorry for the incorrect use of quotation marks, but this site won't support italicization or underscoring.) I quote:

Inanimate Possessives. Many writers claim that because inanimate objects cannot show ownership, the possessive should not be used. But others disagree, arguing that the alternative results in unnecessary wordiness. For example, some writers and editors would change "the train station's platform" to "the platform of the train station," although most today would not.

In phrases of personification of time and money, however, the possessive has always been acceptable.

this evening's storm
dawn's early light
5 days' leave
3 years' salary
6 dollars' worth
Seven Years' War

The possessive should not be used when no possessive relationship exists.

3 years ago
6 years later

[End of quotation]

This approach is echoed by the "United States Government Printing Office Style Manual," as follows:

8.14. The possessive case is often used in lieu of an objective phrase even though ownership is not involved.

1 day's labor (labor for 1 day)
2 hours' traveltime
a stone's throw
2 weeks' pay
5 or 10 billion dollars' worth
for charity's sake
for pity's sake

[End of quotation]

Finally, from "The Elements of Grammar for Writers," is this (at a more basic level):

How can you tell whether a word is possessive or plural? A possessive acts like an adjective, whereas a plural is a noun (nominal). That is, the possessive form of a noun will nearly always have another noun after it. Thus, the following reasoning is used in punctuating the phrase "two months' vacation":

1. Because there is a noun after the word "months," it should be possessive.
2. Now, because there is more than one month involved (two), you have a word that is both plural and possessive.
3. So you write the complete plural, "months."
4. Then you add an apostrophe: "two months' vacation."
5. You add no "s" after the apostrophe because you would not speak a second "s" sound out loud.

[End of quotation]

I won't bore you with additional references, but they all are in agreement: "two weeks notice" or "two week notice" is incorrect; "two weeks' notice" is correct. I now give you but a moment's notice that my comment is ending.

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Daedalus,

I'm not a linguist or grammatician - in fact I don't even know if there is such a word as grammatician - but I found the alt-usage-english argument convincing. Their example was "one day's leave" which to me seems to be essentially the same grammatical issue as "two weeks' notice". Actually it may be a better example because day is singular, so it becomes obvious that "one day leave" doesn't sound right.

http://www.alt-usage-english.org/genitive_and_p...

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Archie, I would agree that as an adjective, orientated is more common in the UK with oriented being more common in the USA; however, it would be incorrect to state that the American version was derived from the British version. The use of "oriented" actually predates "orientated" by about a hundred years. As a verb, orient predates orientate by about five hundred years (in the UK, of course). The noun, orientation, came much later than even the adjective, oriented, and around the same time as orientated. So, I guess you can back-form orientate from orientation or you can "forward"-form oriented from the verb orient (It would seem odd to form orientate from the verb orient, which may be why many find it unacceptably redundant). Interesting that when you "form" a "formation", you don't "formate" it, do you? It is formed, not formated (not to be confused with formatted). Of course, there are examples on both sides: note (noun and verb), notate, noted, notated, notation, etc. Each word has its own history and shades of meaning.

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Merge is correct. Well both are correct.

If you say "two week notice" you usually precede it with "a" or "my". As is "I gave him a two-week notice." Meaning that "two-week" is the proper name for that kind of notice, which most people are familiar with as ample notice for quitting a job.

But both are correct, because you could say "I gave him three weeks notice."

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It is NOT a possessive, although the rule for plural possessives is still applied here. "Notice" obviously does not belong to "two weeks." The correct term is a "genitive" or more specifically to this case, it is a genitive of measure (as achille marra indicated).

See: http://alt-usage-english.org/genitive_and_posse...

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Oh, and Joachim is perfectly correct. This is a spelling rule, not a matter of learned opinion.

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No, 'two weeks' is correct,

While a week is a reference to a collection of days it is itself singular in nature. So if the number is singular (ie. one) then so is the word week, but if it's more than one, then you need to use the plural (weeks). Here the word week could easily be substituted for a word like apple - one apple, two apples, fifty apples, two hundred apples.

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Rather than being a matter of opinion, surely the ruling of the apostrophe in "two weeks' notice" is officially documented SOMEWHERE! I'm keen to resolve this in my own mind. I've always used an apostrophe in this case (and argued the point many times) and, if I'm wrong, I'd really like to know about it! Somebody, help!

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There is an interesting discussion about usage of the genetive in English for non-possessive purposes. It's in the FAQ Supplement at http://www.alt-usage-english.org.

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Merge was correct as, indeed, is the film title. It should read "Two Weeks Notice".
The word 'weeks' is a plural of the noun week, hence the terminal 's'.
Joachim: This is not the genitive case. It is not the notice of (or belonging to) the weeks in question; thus no apostrophe is required.
Selkie: There is no necessity for the word 'of' in this sentence. Moreover, even if that was the case, an apostrophe, when used to indicate omission, signifies a missing letter (or letters) not a missing word. So, again, no apostrophe is required.

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I have just been having a prolonged argument with people at work about whether it is correct to write "three weeks notice" or "three weeks' notice". My view is that, since a week cannot possess the notice and it is not an abbreviation with an absent letter, it is incorrect to use an apostrophe. The notice, is anything, is possessed by the person to whom it is given (i.e. she gave him his notice). Merge, Purple Dragon, I see that you agree with this. Do you know of any printed source which would verify it?

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Just a quick note to anyone else who finds this discussion whilst looking for a definitive, or at least authoritative, answer on this topic.

I've just referenced the Associated Press Stylebook 2009 edition and it recommends the following, as a number of posters have already stated:

Two weeks' notice.

Had the notice period been one week, it should have been:

One week's notice.

Whilst I appreciate that the AP are not the arbiters of correct punctuation, it's authority should be sufficient to win any on-going office arguments on the subject.

For your reference the ISBN of the edition I am using is 978-0-465-01262-6

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No, Jappy, Merge is only partially correct, because their solution fails to take into account the possessive. You must have the apostrophe after the word "weeks" for the phrase to be properly rendered.

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will you be so nice to help to write a two weeks notice letter i have a new job but i will like to live the doors open tks

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Yes, Boom16. ... "two years' imprisonment."

Or, to avoid any possible confusion in punctuation: "a sentence of two years in prison" or "a two-year sentence of imprisonment."

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Two weeks' notice -- here "notice" is a noun, a particular kind -- a noun that is derived from a verb, with a particular name -- a gerund.

The American Heritage dictionary example is "we admired the choir's singing" -- what's being admired is not the choir, but the singing.

I only know this because I've looked it up so often.

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Is there a single rule in punctuation with less than one hundred exceptions?

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I'm not a mother tongue speaker but I'm pretty sure that the correct form is 'two weeks' notice', genitive of measure. If, as I believe, in this case 'notice' is countable a possible alternative is 'a two week notice' like 'a three day ticket' or 'a stone merchant' but the form in the title of the film doesn't make sense because it would be a compound with the first part -grammatically an adjective- treated as a noun: consider the difference between a twenty-year-old boy and a twenty years old.

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bravo

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I would like to apologise for my typos in the previous posting. The word "furore" in line 12 should of course have an "e" on the end, the extraneous full stop in line 14 after "not an English teacher,". Also the comma in line 15 after the word correct may not be (correct, that is) and there is an extraneous comma after the work "now" at the beginning of para 2. Clearly the extra "h" in the word "greath" at the end of para. 2, line 2, is a typo. The close bracket after the word "journalist" in para 2 line 4 should of course be an open bracket. I often have trouble knowing where to put commas and too liberally sprinkle my writing with them. My spelling leaves something to be desired, but I am sure of my apostrophes. If there's one thing in life I am sure of, it's apostrophes and I will only back down now if the a member of the Royal Family tells me in person that I am wrong :-).

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Pammi, furor, without the e is also correct.

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I agree

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Evath, it's Sandra Bullock :D

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Notice of two weeks = two weeks' notice. The apostrophe is there to indicate possession = of, as wendy says.

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I must say this is a fascinating post with some very valid arguments. Thanks especially to Archie for his epistle - most entertaining indeed - and to Pammi who felt the need to point out all of her mistakes for those who missed them first time round.

I do have a question that is slightly related to this topic:

What is the correct term here, "Two weeks full board" or "Two weeks' full board"?

There is currently a debate in my office and I am guessing, by what I have read here, that the latter statement is correct. Any ideas?

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What Merge said is absolutely right. But that isn't what dyske's point.
It's like the diffelent between "He is 2 years old"
and " He is 2-year old boy".

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Oh, my God !!!
I spelled wrong !!! And sad
sentence. Sorry

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Fernando, my hourly rate for freelance work is fifty dollars an hour (more or less depending on difficulty). You may contact me at the linked e-mail address if you're interested.

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Let's put this to rest:

The arguments of two years' imprisonment or one day's leave are not pertinent to this case because both refer to continuous time frames. Rather, "two weeks notice" is more like saying, "I will give you a five minute warning before your time is up"-- it is an single, instantaneous event (at least one would hope you don't have to notify your boss of resignation continually for two weeks). Arguably, I suppose our colloquial language of "five minute warning" should actually be "five minutes warning"...

-a writing and grammar tutor

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I'll take that as a 'no'.

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What about this, is it:-
20 minutes' stretching
or
20 minutes stretching

Thanks

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If you write out five-minute warning, it should be hyphenated ... Just like he is a five-year old child.

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What an interesting read... one that took me away from my project for an hour's time. ;-D
First, to Stephanie, it would actually be a "five-minute warning" for reasons I will point out below.
To end the debate, if there continues to be any, in the example, "In two weeks' time, I will be resigning," the apostrophe is correct, if one could also say, "in the time of two weeks, I will be resigning." (ostensibly "of" denotes possession of time and "time" is ascribed to the 2 weeks, hence it acts as a plural possessive.)
If you are going to leave off the word "time," then the statement must revert to, "In two weeks I will be resigning."
The only other correct way to say this would be to say, "a two-week notice" in which case, as in "five-minute warning," the words 'two' and 'week' would be acting as an adjective modifying the word 'warning' and would need to be hyphenated. Such as in my 2-year-old son, vs. my son is 2 years old.
In the case of the original question about the title of the movie, using these criteria we have discussed here and throughout the thread, "Two Weeks' Notice" would be correct, or, if anyone in Hollywood had given it any serious thought, "Two-week Notice."
Now, I must go back to work as I do not want anyone giving me a two weeks' notice of a two-week notice on this project. ;-D

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another thing just occurred to me in the case of the movie title...
knowing how they think in Hollywood, having lived in the world of movies for 25 years, this is likely rendered Two Week Notice because they are simultaneously speaking of 2 things... and actually intend a pun. That is to say, that the 2-week notice Julia Roberts gives Hugh Grant give his "2 weeks to notice" he loves her, before she is out of his life for good. So... given the nature of titles to stand for multiple things, I think what Hollywood and the writers were wanting to leave you with, ultimately was his 2 weeks to notice her and say something to her.... Wonder if anyone else out there would agree.

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...or disagree. ;-P

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when transcribing I wrote - will see the client back in two week's time- spell/grammar check did not indicate I change...this comes up often and I am still uncertain if this is/can be appropriate?

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Oh, and may I add that I should have written "five-years old child" in the plural in my previous post.

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[...] more movies out there missing their punctuation, namely Two Weeks Notice. (Though according to this ridiculously in-depth debate, that might not necessarily be true. And here’s where my brain starts to cave in and the [...]

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I presume "a sentence of two year's imprisonment" follows the same rule?? It is a frequent argument amongst lawyers.

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Hi I am Paula I hope so you guy be together dating for awhile and get married perfect together as a couple SaNDEA Bulllock and Hugh Grant I hope so

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And Happy Valentine's Day to you too Paula.

But to the business in hand, if it was one week, we'd need an apostrophe to be grammatical - 'one week's notice', 'in a minute's time', 'a mile's walk from here' - i.e. notice of one week, the time of a minute, a walk of a mile.

So logically, in the plural it should be 'two weeks' notice', 'in five minutes' time', 'three miles' walk for here'. And this is what the Guardian and Economist style guides (in the UK) stipulate. It is also what any dictionary will show you in the examples. It is also the majority use in books. However, so many people leave off the apostrophe these days that I wonder if it is not becoming acceptable in informal writing.

I've blogged about this fairly recently:
http://random-idea-english.blogspot.com/2014/01...

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Perhaps leaving off the apostrophe is because some people can't be bothered to find it on the keyboard. (This might also apply to commas.)

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If "notice of two weeks" is an alternative, then "two weeks' notice" with an apostrophe is correct. Genitive case.

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@jayles - even the people at Warner Bros who decided on the movie title?

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@WW "saint valentines day" with no apostrophe comes up in Hamlet.
According to Ngram the possessive sans apostrophe has upticked since 1980.
Of course Warner Bros knew their etymology and thus since there remains an 'e' before the 's' there is nothing to elide. Or perhaps it just didn't look good in CAPS. Who knows. It is all just a spelling convention which wasn't really totaly accepted till the 1850's with the coming of compulsory boredom, or education for children.

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@jayles - if you look for these expressions in Google Books, none that I could find have apostrophes before the nineteenth century. The apostrophe was the last punctuation mark to be adopted into English and its use wasn't really fixed until the nineteenth century, as you point out. In fact one of the earliest uses of the apostrophe was the much aligned 'greengrocer's apostrophe' for plurals ending in a vowel, especially with foreign words, as in this from Alexander Pope (1735):

"Comma's and points they set exactly right."

This appears to have been quoted (with apostrophe) without comment by Johnson in his original 1755 entry for comma. But by the 1785 sixth edition, the apostrophe has mysteriously disappeared.

But in any case it's nothing to do with elision or replacing a missing letter; it is the Saxon genitive replacing 'of', as Wendy said way back when. It is the day of St Valentine. Dave's car, Pete's wife, a mile's distance - these all end in e but we still use an apostrophe.

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Sorry, I meant to say "two years' imprisonment"... oops!

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