Apostrophe

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The apostrophe () is a punctuation mark used in writing. It is a diacritic (a mark used with letters).

In English, it has two jobs:[1]

Examples[change | change source]

Its versus it's[change | change source]

The most common grammatical mistake in written English is to put it's where its is correct. Its: a possessive adjective and pronoun of the personal pronoun it.

  • The cat chased its tail. (correct)
  • The tyre lost it's grip. (wrong)

It's: a contraction of the verbal phrase it is or it has.

  • It's mine. (correct; check: It is mine)
  • It's been here. (correct; check: It has been here)
  • The cat chased it's tail. (wrong; cannot be expanded to it is)

The same applies to yours, theirs and ours because these are also possessive adjectives of personal pronouns.

  • The colour is ours.
  • That book is hers (or his).
  • Theirs was the responsibility.

Possession[change | change source]

Apostropes are also used to show something belongs to someone (or something). Again, correct uses can be expanded:

  • Mike's car. (correct: the car that belongs to Mike)
  • The dog's ball. (correct: the ball that belongs to the dog)
  • Those dog's are large. (wrong: cannot be expanded. Here "dogs" is a plural word)

The intrusive apostrophe[change | change source]

Comes in plurals which don't (do not) need it. Do not put an apostrophe in word ending in s, such as a plural. Put an apostrophe, or 's, at the end of the word instead.

  • Mrs. Jones' hat or Mrs. Jones's hat. (both correct)
  • Both of my parents' birthdays. (correct)
  • CD's and DVD's (wrong because not necessary: see "Plural" section below)
  • Apple's and pear's (wrong)

Writing dialogue or titles[change | change source]

Apostrophes are also used when other words are shortened, as in slang:

  • Go get 'em tiger! or Li'l Bow Bow.

This is just a version of the abbreviation function.

Plural[change | change source]

To make a word that doesn't (does not) usually exist as a plural into a plural, an apostrophe is occasionally used. See these examples:

  • How many A's did you get this year? Here it is wrong because it is not needed.
  • The poll received many yes's and very few no's. Here it is sensible because without it the words 'yess' and 'nos' look quite peculiar. General rule: if an apostrophe is not needed, do not use it.

References[change | change source]

  1. Quirk, Geenbaum, Leech & Svartvik, A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Longman, London & New York. p985 ISBN 0-582-51734-6