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Apostrophe Grammar Rules

January 3, 2011 Posted by admin

The apostrophe is a punctuation symbol used to signify possession, denote contractions, take the place of omitted letters, and, in specific cases, simply for clarification or to pluralize a word. Following is a list of apostrophes rules, including everyday examples of when to use apostrophes.

The way to signify possession in singular words is to place possessive apostrophes in between the word and an “s”. Some apostrophes examples include: “That is the dog’s bone” and “The man’s hat was askew.” In both examples, the reader can tell it is the “dog’s” bone and the “man’s” hat because the apostrophe shows possession. In cases when words are plural, i.e. they already have an “s” at the end, writers put apostrophes after s, at the end of the word. “The cats’ bowls are clean” and “The boys’ clubhouse was built” are two examples of apostrophes after s used to show possession. In the case of plural words without an “s”, apostrophes are placed between the word and the newly added “s”, such as in “The janitor cleaned the men’s room.” Although possessive apostrophes are almost always used to show possession, they are not used with possessive pronouns such as “Yours” and “Ours.”

The apostrophes rules concerning contractions are usually fairly straightforward, with a few exceptions. It is usually simple to know when to use apostrophes when forming contractions, as evidenced by these apostrophes examples. Contractions are two words combined into one, such as “You are” becoming “You’re” and “I am” becoming “I’m.” Used everyday in casual speech, there is an ongoing debate within the academic community as to if and when contractions are appropriate in literature, dissertations, and formal speeches. The apostrophe is placed in between the two word sections, to show the reader that they have been combined. There are some tricky rules with apostrophes and contractions, however, such as “It is” becomes “It’s,”but no apostrophe is used when showing “It” as possessing something. “The cat is fat because it’s very lazy; I’m taking away its treats.” “It’s” cannot be used to show possession and also to form a contraction because that is confusing to the reader, so there is no apostrophe in the possessive “Its.”

Often in speech and in select writing, letters are omitted from words, mostly in order to convey an accent or difference in someone’s speech. For example, the Irish author Frank McCourt’s second novel, ‘Tis, has an apostrophe showing where the letter “I” was omitted. Colloquial speech contains many instances of omitted letters, and apostrophes are used to record them, like in “Hangin’,” “Runnin’,” and “Jumpin’.”

In specific cases, an apostrophe is used to clarify a sentence, like “dot your i’s and cross your t’s.” The “i’s” and “t’s” are not possessive, but the apostrophe is simply there to set some distance between the letter and the “s.”

For many people, proper utilization of the apostrophe is often a tricky aspect of writing to master. This article discusses all the various uses of the apostrophe in the English language, and provides a basic outline for how to correctly write and understand the punctuation mark.