Grammar 101: Apostrophes

Class is now in session!!
Welcome back to Grammar 101...where I help the grammatically-challenged become proud Grammarians.

Last week, a fellow blogger mentioned that sometimes she finds apostrophes confusing and she tends to trip over them.  Well fear not my bloggy friend, for I shall help you conquer the Apostrophe monster!

Without seeming like Captain Obvious over here, what exactly is the apostrophe and how do we use this little bugger?

The Apostrophe is a punctuation mark that serves three purposes:
  1. The marking of possessive case.  Ex: That is Vanessa's notebook.
  2. The omission of one or more letters. Ex: As in contractions like do not to don't, etc.
  3. The marking as plural of written items that are not actually words established in English. Ex:  "Mind your P's and Q's."  or "My mom was born in the late 1950's."   This is considered incorrect by some, but its usage is allowed.  
Let's get down to the nitty-gritty, shall we?

How to use the Apostrophe
Joint Possession indicates a single item belonging to more than one person/noun. Ex: I enjoy reading Isalys and Vanessa’s blog.

Separate Possession indicates items belonging to more than one person/noun. Ex: I like to visit Isalys’s and Vanessa’s Goodreads pages. This example tells us that Isalys and Vanessa each have individual Goodreads accounts.

Singular Nouns (basic rule) indicates that you are referring to one item belonging to one person/noun. Ex: That is Vanessa’s notebook.

Plural Nouns (basic rule) indicates that there is no extra s needed when the noun in question is already plural and already ends with an -s. Ex: Those are the pens’ caps. (NOT those are the pens’s caps.)

There are also instances where the plural noun is not formed by adding an -s. In those cases, an -s is added for the possessive, after the apostrophe. Ex: That building belongs to the women’s clubhouse.

Possessive pronouns and adjectives: An apostrophe is NOT used with the following possessive pronouns: yours, his, hers, ours, its, their, and whose. Many people use it's for the possessive of it, but it's can be only a contraction of it is or it has.

All other possessive pronouns not ending in -s do take an apostrophe. Ex: one’s, everyone’s, somebody’s, etc. With Plural forms, the apostrophe FOLLOWS the -s, such as: the others' husbands.

Importance for disambiguation: Each of these four phrases (listed in Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct) has a distinct meaning:

• My sister's friend's investments (the investments belonging to a friend of my sister)
• My sister's friends' investments (the investments belonging to several friends of my sister)
• My sisters' friend's investments (the investments belonging to a friend of several of my sisters)
• My sisters' friends' investments (the investments belonging to several friends of several of my sisters)

An apostrophe is commonly used to indicate omitted characters, normally letters. Ex: It is used in contractions, such as can't from cannot, it's from it is or it has, and I'll from I will or I shall.

It is also used in abbreviations such as gov't for government.

It may also indicate omitted numbers where the spoken form is also capable of omissions, as '70s for 1970s representing seventies for nineteen-seventies.

*Phew* Now for the fun stuff!
Apostrophe Abuse
This bathroom must belong to just one girl. Anyone know who that girl is? Because I'll need to borrow her bathroom soon.

Oh Walmart, you give us so many reasons to make fun of you!  Seriously though, does spell-check not work in Oklahoma?

Uhm, an apostrophe would not be required would just be Old Navys because Old Navy is a proper noun.

If I can digress for just a moment and touch upon pluralization.
If the word has a vowel before the final -y then you just add an -s:
day  = days
turkey = turkeys
toy = toys

If the word has a consonant before the final -y then the plural ends with -ies:
 bully = bullies
quality = qualities
pantry = pantries

If the word has a consonant before the final -y, BUT the word is a proper noun (such as Old Navy), you add an -s without an apostrophe.

All this talk of apostrophes will segue nicely into contractions...we may cover that topic in the next lesson in two weeks!


  1. hehe! I love your don't photos. Very nice post. I love this feature.

  2. you are awesome!
    you need to check out
    I'm constantly laughing at their grammar fail...

    hubby sent an email this week stating "ARE GAME IS AT 7". UGH! I teased him until he sent another that said it was because he had been using voice to text... yeah, right!

  3. Haha! I was like, I know how apostrophes work and I was proved a bit wrong. I never was a stickler for grammar and hated the drills in English class in high school. Your post did help someone today! I realized I sometimes confuse Joint Possession and Separate Possession.

    Also, the plural nouns. That's how I used to use the apostrophe, but then I started seeing and hearing that you had to add the extra s. Who misinformed me, dammit?!

    LOL thanks ladies!

  4. @Stephanie: Those are some pretty big no-no's, lol.

    @Gina: Why thank you :)
    My hubbs LOVES He can easily visit that site for an hour at a time just going through all the pictures. I'll have to make it a point to check out their grammar fails.

    @Amber: Glad to be of service :) Sometimes it's the simplest things, like punctuation, that throw us off.

    The plural noun thing can be tricky. In some instances it's OK to add the extra -s but it's really not necessary (it's actually redundant). I can easily write "Please read Isalys's review" as well as "Please read Isalys' review". The latter is preferred but the former is accepted :)


  5. Oooo that is one bad your'e ;)

    Personally I'm kinda bad at these so I try to avoid them in my blog whenever possible.

  6. Really great post. So very, very helpful. The "sister" examples really help clarify.

    Can't wait for your next installment.

  7. HOLY S- My head is spinning from that lesson. I think I have jacked up my use of 's


  8. Not only did the Walmart folks have "your'e", but they misspelled "congratulations"? That is too funny.

    This post was helpful as well as funny. Thank you!

  9. Thank you! I learned more from this post then I did in any high school English class! Now if I can just remember it all...

  10. hehehe! Apostrophes are tricky little buggers!

    And those pictures are just too funny.


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