English Mechanics: Using the Apostrophe
Incorrect use of the apostrophe is one of the most common mistakes in English writing. And often, the mistakes are made by native English speakers . Whether teachers are no longer taking the time to demonstrate and correct apostrophe usage or whether people are just forgetting those lessons in adulthood, using an apostrophe where none is needed is a giant red flag. It cheapens your writing and detracts from any intelligent message you are trying to communicate.
It's important that a writer learn or review the rules about apostrophe use. A large percentage of grammar errors are due to a lack of understanding of basic English mechanics. These concepts are generally much more straight forward than other concepts in English, such as spelling and the use of idioms. Do take the time to strengthen your grasp of mechanics, starting with the correct use of the humble apostrophe.
Correct Use of the Apostrophe
In the English language the apostrophe has two main uses:
1) Use an apostrophe to form a contraction :
“ I have ” becomes “ I've ” in its contacted form.
The apostrophe replaces a letter or group of letters removed – in this case it replaces the letters “h” and “a” from the word “have.”
2) Use an apostrophe with a noun to show possession :
“ The bow of the ship, ” can also be written, “ The ship's bow .”
“ The dolls belonging to the girls, ” can also be written, “ The girls' dolls .”
“ The toys belonging to the children ,” can also be written, “ The children's toys .”
In this case the apostrophe stands in for the “of” or “belonging to” concept. In the case of a singular noun, it also helps to distinguish the possessive noun from the plural noun . In the sentence above the ship possesses the bow, but there is only one ship. Notice that when the noun is a plural ending in “s,” the apostrophe is place after that “s.”
The possessive form of the noun is also called the genitive case . You may be more familiar with this term if your mother tongue is one that declines its nouns.
Misuses Of The Apostrophe
Form the plural without the apostrophe:
What prompted me to write this post is the many other posts I've read in which a plural is formed using the apostrophe.
Incorrect: I like dog's and cat's .
Correct: I like dogs and cats.
Conjugate verbs without the apostrophe:
You may also sometimes see people misusing the apostrophe to write the third-person form of some English words.
Incorrect: God love's you.
Correct: God loves you.
Incorrect: My son go's to the school at the end of the street.
Correct: My son goes to the school at the end of the street.
Form the possessive of pronouns like “it” and “her” without the apostrophe:
Possessive pronouns don't use an apostrophe. The whole group represents an exception to the rule about using an apostrophe to form the possessive. Pronouns such as his, her, your, our, their, and it don't need an apostrophe when you form the possessive. In general, simply add an “s” to indicate possession. “His” is the correct possessive form of the pronoun “him.”
Incorrect: The leopard is known for it's spots.
Correct: The leopard is known for its spots.
Incorrect: The book on the table is your's .
Correct: The book on the table is yours.
Words like our's and their's don't exist, so your spell checker should flag them automatically. But “it's” won't be flagged in a simple spell check, because it is a valid English word. Be careful not to confuse the possessive form its ( belonging to it) with the contraction it's ( “it is” or sometimes “it has.” )
Image credit: © Kyla Matton Osborne
Note: Adapted from an article I originally published at Bubblews
Image Credit » Kyla Matton Osborne