The apostrophe

Apostrophes are simple creatures with multiple uses. They can indicate possession:

  • the criminal’s intentions …

as well as the number of subjects with possession. The example above referred to one criminal, whereas the next refers to more than one:

  • the criminals’ intentions …

Indicating possession with an apostrophe can get tricky when the noun ends in an s. Some writers are happy to simply add an apostrophe and another s, as in:

  • Icarus’s wings

I prefer the neater:

  • Icarus’ wings

Although I would still pronounce the extra s.

Apostrophes are often used to create contractions (single and less formal words) from pairs of words, such as:

  • it is = it’s
  • we are = we’re
  • they had = they’d
  • you have = you’re

It’s, which I’ve blogged about previously, is commonly but mistakenly used to denote possession by something of non-specific gender such as a bicycle (it’s tyre is flat); the correct word is its – no apostrophe!

Apostrophes are also very frequently wrongly used to create plurals – we’ve all seen advertisements containing things like:

  • used car’s for sale
  • mens’ haircut’s $15
  • record’s, DVD’s, everything must go

Note that mens’ is also wrong, as ‘men’ is already plural so the apostrophe comes before the s.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.