Apostrophes Simplified. ’. Uses of the Apostrophe. To show possession. To show that a letter is missing. 3. To show, in some cases, that a word is plural. 1. SHOWING POSSESSION. Showing Possession.
To show possession.
To show that a letter is missing.
3. To show, in some cases, that a word is plural.
When it is clear that a word is possessive, then an apostrophe is required, as in the following sentences:
This is Maria’s room.
David went to a boys’ school.
The women’s department is on the second floor.
The placement of the apostrophe is cause for much confusion. However, the principle is simple. Let us use the phrase “The boys room” as an example.
Clearly, the room belongs to either one boy, or to two boys. Since there are no context clues, it is impossible to know precisely which. An apostrophe will clarify the meaning.
If the room belongs to one boy, then the apostrophe goes after the singular word boy.
If the room is shared by two or more boys, the apostrophe goes after the plural word boys.
The boy’s room. - Belongs to just one boy.
The boys’ room. - Belongs to at least two boys.
As you can see, it is now clear how many boys own the room.
The general principle is this:
Words that take an apostrophe do so after the singular or after the plural form of the word, as the case may be.
I stole the boys hat.
I went to a boys school.
He stole the childrens hearts.
Plural words that end in an “s” or a “z” sound will drop the additional “s” in certain circumstances. I call this “the one ziz rule.” A word that ends “ziz-ziz” just sounds stupid.
Jesus’ sandals, NOT Jesus’s sandals.
Moses’ loin cloth NOT Moses’s loin cloth.
St. James’s Palace NOT St. James’ Palace.
An apostrophe indicates that letters are missing from a contraction, as follows:
it’s - it is - “i” is missing from is
didn’t - did not - “o” is missing from not
could’ve - could have - “ha” is missing
won’t - will not - God only knows
can’t - cannot - “no” is missing
e’en - even - “v” is missing
and so on.
Apostrophes also show that words (usually numbers of one sort or another) are plural, although this usage is falling out of fashion. It is still seen from time to time but is now considered unnecessary and in MLA Format should be omitted.
During the 1960’s, I lived in Ontario.
You now know all you need to about the uses of the apostrophe.
Remember, it shows (a) possession, (b) omission in contractions, and (c) certain types of plural.
The following rule of thumb is a good one where the apostrophe is concerned:
“If in doubt, leave it out.”
PowerPoint Presentation by Mark A. Spalding, BA, MEd, MA
Painting by David Shevlino