• Rachel Paige

Apostrophes

This is a real quick post this week. How to use an apostrophe.


An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that indicates possession or the omission of letters or numbers.


Omission: contractions like can't, don't, won't, couldn't, etc. use an apostrophe to hold the place of the missing letters.

Phrases like "back in "04" use an apostrophe to hold the place of missing letter, in this case "20."


Possession: this is where people often get confused. Apostrophes show who in the sentence owns the item you're talking about. Evie's book, Olivia's phone, or Megan's cookies are all correct.


Let's talk about some other possession rules. If the noun is singular, like all the ones above, the apostrophe goes before the s. If it's plural and ends is s, like cows, or parents, the apostrophe goes after (the cows' water, my parents' house).


If the plural does not end in s, like children or women, the apostrophe is before the s like normal (children's, women's).


What about words that end in s already? Or names that end in s? Is it James' or James's? The first one. Always the first one. To sum this up, apostrophes need an s for possessive words. If there already is one, put it after it. If there isn't, put the apostrophe first.


Now let's talk about its and it's. I see these confused all the time, which is understandable. It can be used as a possessive or a contraction. In this case, the possessive does not get an apostrophe. "The dog chased its tail" has no apostrophe. "It's (it is) a beautiful day" does.


I want to leave with one final statement. Please, please, please, never use an apostrophe to make a word plural. Especially last names. "Cat's" is not plural, it's one cat owning something. "Greetings from the Smith's" is wrong unless you add something like "house" after it to make the Smiths own something.



Exercise 1:

Are the following correct? If not, why?

a. It is the childrens' turn to play.

b. The dog's love their new food.

c. The sheep's water is empty.

d. I saw James's dad the other day.

e. I graduated in '16.

f. Its already three in the afternoon!


Answers:

a. Incorrect. Children, not childrens is the plural form. Should be "children's"

b. Incorrect. Dog's is not being used as a possessive. Should be "dogs"

c. Correct. Sheep is plural, so sheep's is the correct possessive.

d. Incorrect. James already ends in s. Should be "James' dad"

e. Correct. '16 indicated the shortening of 2016

f. Incorrect. Its is the possessive form. Should be "it's"

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