The humble apostrophe

How to use the apostrophe

· Grammar,Punctuation

The apostrophe has many uses. Here are some of them.

Perhaps the most common use of the punctuation is to indicate that something belongs to someone, or that something is part of something else: possession. For example, we could say... "Philip's house is in Meudon". It would be similar to saying "The house of Philip is in Meudon". Here are some more examples:

  • The cat's litter needs to be changed.
  • My sister's job is killing her.
  • The children's school is closed due to the Covid-19 virus.

Another use of the apostrophe is to contract, to omit letters in a word, to show on paper how we normally speak. For example, instead of saying "cannot", we often say "can't". The latter is more common in speech than in formal writing. Here are a few examples:

  • We mustn't forget to call the client back. = We must not forget to call the client back.
  • They haven't finished. = They have not finished.
  • Haven't you heard? =  Have you not heard?

The apostrophe can also indicate the verbs to be (we're = we are) and to have (it's = it has). A word of caution: do not confuse "it's" with "its". The first one is "it is" whereas the second one is "its" and shows possession such as in the sentence "PSG must learn how to control its rowdy fans". Here are some more examples:

  • They're not going to like this (or They aren't going to like this) = They are not going to like this.
  • It's been raining since yesterday. = It has been raining since yesterday.
  • The dog has lost its leash = The dog has lost its leash (=possession).

If you'd (you would) like to show possession for someone whose name ends with an S, use 's, for example, Chris's holiday was spoiled by rain. And if you'd like to show possession for a plural noun, use the apostrophe without an s, for example, The Jones' lawn is always neat. Check the following examples out:

  • They have decided to change Mathias's job (=name that ends with an 's')
  • The boss's husband is coming to the office today (=possession for a singular noun ending in 's', like above)
  • This is my sister's room (=one sister)
  • This is my sisters' room (=more than one sister)
The apostrophe can get really confusing when we try to use it with more complex nouns, like brothers-in-law, for example. Or when two people own the same thing:
  • Henry's and Mathilda's roles are going to be discussed tomorrow.
    (=2 roles, one belonging to Henry and the other to Mathilda)
  • Henry and Mathilda's roles are going to be discussed tomorrow.
    (=2 roles, both belonging to Henry and Mathilda. Perhaps they're Henr'salespeople and purchasing agents simultaneously)
  • Henry's and Mathilda's cars are nice.
    (=2 cars, one Henry's, the other Mathilda's)
  • Henry and Mathilda's cars are nice.
    (=2 or more cars, belonging to both Henry and Mathilda)

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(Bidouillé par Ret)

How to correctly pronounce the word apostrophe: listen

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