A few years ago, Hugh Grant starred in a film called Two Weeks Notice. (In a daring career gamble for Grant, it was a romantic comedy.)
The movie received mixed reviews from critics, many of whom pointed out that it seemed to lack some of the basic qualities of a good romantic comedy, like romance and comedy. One other element conspicuously missing from the film was a possessive apostrophe in the title. Two Weeks Notice should really have been called Two Weeks’ Notice. The concept that an abstract notion, such as a period of time, should be able to ‘own’ anything may seem strange in many ways, but in the wonderful world of sentence structure, that sense of possessive ownership does indeed apply. The two weeks do effectively ‘own’ the notice, just as a film about guinea pigs owned by Kenny Biggs should be called Kenny Biggs’ Guinea Pigs.
By extension, therefore, we should talk about something happening in two weeks’ time, or one year’s time, or at 12 seconds’ notice. Possessive apostrophes are necessary in all such cases.
Next month, we’ll be looking at the philosophical question of whether time itself can ever be truly possessed by anyone, with our guest blogger Doctor Who.