2.5 The apostrophe
Apostrophes are used in two ways:
1. To indicate that a letter or letters have been dropped from a word
2. To indicate possession
In deciding whether to use an apostrophe and, if you do decide to use it, where to position it, there are two questions you must ask:
Question_1: Is something being possessed?
Don’t assume that all nouns ending in ‘s are possessive: they may simply be plural. Before you insert an apostrophe, make sure that there is possession.
Question 2: Who or what possesses?
The apostrophe always comes directly after the name of the possessor or possessors. For instance, in Example 2, one boy possesses the bicycle; the apostrophe is inserted directly after boy and before the s. In Example 3, on the other hand, the father is possessed by two or more boys, so the apostrophe is placed after boys.
Handy hint 1: To check if you have placed the apostrophe correctly, remember that the apostrophe takes the place of the words of the.
In Example 2, the boy’s bicycle means the bicycle of the boy’ the apostrophe comes after boy ( boy’s ). In sentence 3, the boys ‘father means the father of the boys’ the apostrophe comes after boys ( boys’ ).
Notice that in ‘men’s books’, the apostrophe comes before the s because ‘men’ is already plural; we would not say ‘the coats of the mens’. Similarly, in ‘children’s welfare, the apostrophe comes before the s because the noun ‘children’ is already plural; the welfare is possessed by ‘the children’, not ‘the childrens’.
Handy hint 2: Remember that ‘s is added to denote possession. Another way to think of using ‘s is to note if the word does not end in s, then add ‘s. If the work already ends in s, then add ‘ (apostrophe minus s), unless s is pronounced doubly as in the following:
Special Cases: Time and Money
As we’ve seen, possessive apostrophes are most commonly used to show ownership by people or things: the boy’s bicycle, the book’s cover, Australia’s flag, and so on. However, they are also used in relation to periods of time or sums of money.
Sometimes nouns are used possessively without the second noun (which is understood by the reader).
The Dreaded ITS / IT’S Confusion
The its/it’s confusion arises from the fact that there are two categories of apostrophes:
Category 1 – dropped letter
Category 2 – possession
It’s always belongs to category 1.
It’s always means it is or it has.
The reason for the confusion is that its is a possessive pronoun, and so we may (wrongly) assume that it belongs to category 2 and needs an apostrophe. However, as a possessive pronoun ( like ‘his’, ‘her’, or ‘their’ ), its already indicates possession in the same way as ‘her’ or ‘his’. Just as we wouldn’t write ‘hi’s life, we don’t write ‘it’s life’.
Previous Page Next Page