Intro to Apostrophes
Apostrophes serve a variety of useful roles in our writing. They can display ownership, express contractions, show omissions, and sometimes indicate the plural forms of certain words—like lowercase letters and abbreviations. This tutorial will break down these functions and provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to use apostrophes in your writing properly.
Show Ownership with Apostrophes
One of the primary uses of apostrophes is to show possession. By adding an apostrophe and an 's' to the end of a word, we indicate that something belongs to someone or something else. Here are the basic rules of using apostrophes to denote ownership:
Singular nouns, regardless of their ending, form the possessive by adding 's. For example:
Jane's book, the cat's whiskers, the bus's wheels.
With plural nouns that already end in 's', we simply add an apostrophe after the 's'. Here is an example:
The dogs' bones, the cats' paws, the houses' gardens.
Plural nouns not ending with an 's'
For plural nouns that do not end with 's', just add 's to the end to show possession. Look at these examples:
The men's rooms, the children's toys, the women's clothes.
Proper nouns follow the same rule as singular nouns – add 's at the end. For example:
John's car, McDonald's burger, Sunday's newspaper.
Expressing Contractions with Apostrophes
Apostrophes are also commonly used to signify contractions – which is when we merge two words into one. In contractions, the apostrophe always takes the place of the missing letters. For example:
- Do not = Don't
- I am = I'm
- He will = He'll
When using apostrophes to form contractions, always ensure to put the apostrophe in the right place – where the omitted letters should be.
Show Omissions with Apostrophes
In written English, it is sometimes acceptable to omit sounds or letters from words. We usually do this in poetry and other forms of literature to maintain the rhythm, and the apostrophe serves as a placeholder for the omitted letters. For example:
- Over the cobbles he clatter 'n' clanged
- ne'er (never), e'er (ever), o'er (over)
Use Apostrophes with Certain Plurals
In some specific cases, we use apostrophes to indicate plural forms:
In Lowercase Letters
If writing the plural form of lowercase letters, add 's. This is to make the intent clear. For example:
Mind your p's and q's. How many i's are in "indivisibility"?
In Certain Abbreviations
With certain abbreviations, it can be helpful to use an apostrophe to indicate plurality. This depends on the style and the potential for misunderstanding. For example:
I've got four A's this semester.
Common Errors to Avoid
Apostrophes in Its and It's
A common error in written English is the confusion between “its” (the possessive form of “it”) and “it’s” (the contraction of “it is” or “it has”). Remember that “its” is a possessive pronoun, like his or hers, and doesn’t require an apostrophe.
Use "its" for possession (The dog wagged its tail.) and "it's" for contraction of it is or it has (It's raining, It's been a long day).
Apostrophes and Plurals
Generally, do not use an apostrophe to form a plural noun. An apostrophe + "s" normally signifies ownership, not plurality. Incorrect usage includes: Apple's for sale or The 90's were a great decade. Correct: Apples for sale, The ‘90s were a great decade.
Remember, apostrophes are an important part of written English. Avoiding these common mistakes and adhering to the rules given above can help make your writing clearer and more professional. Happy writing!