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Pesky apostrophes

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Before we dive into these pesky apostrophes, how about some light relief?

Stephen Fry offers his view of Language in this YouTube video. Enjoy…

Spell checkDespite Stephen’s take on language, if you want to avoid begin pulled up by the grammar police, concentrate!

Apostrophes have two main uses: to indicate contractions and to show possession. They are also seen in Irish names (like O’Connor) or as the closing quote mark. Problems arise mostly though, with contractions and possessions, and plurals.

Contractions: the apostrophe shows that one or more letters have been omitted.

In English, especially when we speak, we contract words. We say can’t instead of cannot, or I’d instead of I had or I would. Here are some more examples.

don’t = do not

e’er = ever

he’s = he is or he has

I’ve = I have

she’ll = she will

they’re = they are

tho’ = though

Possession: the apostrophe shows who owns something.

The book belongs to John.  It is John’s book.

There are exceptions!

The most common mistake is with its and it’s.

it’s = it is   and agrees with the contraction rule

its = belonging to it   but breaks the possession rule

The other personal pronouns – with no sign of a possessive apostrophe – can also trip up a writer:

The book belongs to them; it is theirs.

The book belongs to you; it is yours.

Who does the book belong to? Whose book is it? 

Plurals are often created just by adding an ‘s’ to the end of the word – and none of them need an apostrophe, unless there is some possession involved.

The publishers met with the novelists
and categorised them into pantsers and plotters.

The editor’s assistant took notes.

The plotters’ novels were better structured that those of the pantsers.

An apostrophe is not appropriate but often used in error, with decades.

I was born in the 1950s. I was born in the 1950’s era.


Thank goodness that’s over. If you need some more light relief, watch Stephen Fry’s video again!

Acknowledgment: © Zimmytws | – Spell check