The apostrophe: where you can stick it with some quirky examples
It Is used in only two ways:
1. to denote possession - the possessive ‘s’
It’s odd and a source of error that the letter ‘s’ is used for plurals and also to denote
2. to indicate a missing letter or letters
It is NOT used to indicate a plural, nor is it used for decoration. The plural of TV is not TV's.
Simple but there are a number of sound-alike words, which cause complications.
The bone belonging to the dog:
the dog’s bone
The coat that belongs to Jack: that’s Jack’s coat
(That is the coat that belongs to Jack)
The TV's remote the remote working the TV (pedantically
it could also mean "the TV is some distance away.")
In a plural word ending in ‘s’ the apostrophe goes after the ‘s’.
The dog’s bone a single dog
The dogs’ bones
more than one dog.
In a word that happens to end in s an extra s can be added and is usually pronounced. Though for reasons of practicality there may be exceptions.
or octopus’ garden single octopus
garden multiple octopuses
Davy Jones' locker or Davy Jones's locker
2. missing letters
I am I’m
We are we’re
She is She’s
He’s They are they’re
could not couldn’t is not
was not wasn’t
Shall not Shan't
Lewis Carroll pointed out that logically it should be sha''n't.
4 of the clock 4 o' clock
Complications and sound- alikes.
There are a group of words, which
I will call possessive adjectives (I think this is the correct term), which are possessive in their own right and do not need an apostrophe, some need a qualifying noun, some don’t. Here they are in bold
My dog He’s mine
Your dog he’s yours
Her bitch She’s hers
His dog He's his
Its bone it’s its (dog referred to as ‘it’ for illustrative
Our dog it’s ours
Their dogs They’re theirs
It’s interesting to speculate about the history of these words. Did they
originally have an apostrophe? Was mine originally me’s? Was his originally he’s? We need a linguistic historian.
we can see some considerable potential for confusion.
Note the differences between you’re and your and their and they’re
And the classic error: its and it’s.
It can be argued that the only use for the apostrophe is for a missing letter. Although much of our vocabulary is Latinate, our grammar is Teutonic. The German language utilises
'es' or 's' for possession as in Gottes Wille (God's will) and Middle English and hence Chaucer frequently used 'es'. for possesion, as in Goddes love. However, we have dropped the 'e', which appears to have been replaced with an apostrophe.
Fun with apostrophes
pig's fly -
a porcine parasite
Can you think of a sentence containing: its, it's, their, and they're?
Links for more info dreaded apostrophe