What is it with people and the misuse of apostrophes? People love them, but sometimes it seems as if they use them randomly, throwing in a couple, shaking the sentence around and hoping that everything will be fine. Listen up – you do NOT use apostrophes to pluralise decades or simply in plurals!
There are only two main ways to use an apostrophe:
1) They are used to show possession
never ever go into Kevin’s bedroom without permission
If the thing doing the possession is singular, like Kevin, the apostrophe comes before the s. For plural nouns that end with an s, the apostrophe comes after the s
my parents say there’s something funny about the Hendersons’ house
If a plural noun doesn’t end with an s, then the apostrophe comes before the s, not after it
I prefer adventure films to children’s films every time
Lastly, if a person’s name ends with a s, you add ‘s to the name if you would generally pronounce it with and extra ‘s’ sound on the end, but just an apostrophe (without an extra s) if you wouldn’t. So for example:
Beau Bridges’ Wikipedia page
2) Apostrophes are used to show contractions, or letters that have been missed out of a word
Contractions occur most often in spoken English, but they’re also used increasingly frequently in all but the most formal of documents. Here are some common examples:
I am I’m
he is he’s
does not doesn’t
As well as being used for these widely accepted and commonly used contractions, apostrophes are also sued to indicate letters that are dropped in colloquial speech. For example, a person’s speech might be accurately written as:
What you doin’ round ‘ere again? Olly said ‘e’ll thump you next time ‘e sees you
That might seem more realistic than the more fully written out version:
What are you doing round here again? Olly said he’ll thump you next time he sees you
One exception to the general rule is for those three little letters i-t-s. It is never correct to write this as its’. It’s is the contracted form of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. It’s has no other meaning
The tricky part is that its (no apostrophe) is the possessive form of it.
So – ‘I’m not touching that porcupine. Its spines are way too prickly’.
But why is that different from the possessive Kevin’s? The answer is that Its is like hers, his, ours, theirs, and yours. These are all pronouns. Possessive pronouns don’t have apostrophes. That’s because their spelling already indicates a possessive. For example, the possessive form of she is hers. The possessive form of we is ours. Because we change the spelling, there is no need to add an apostrophe to show possession. Its follows that pattern.
There are apostrophe activists who go around eliminating incorrectly placed (70’s, panini’s, special deal’s etc) apostrophes wherever they can. There are websites and Facebook pages dedicated to it (Apostrophe Catastrophes, The Apostrophe Protection Society)
You don’t need to become such a person. Simply knowing that you are an apostrophe expert will enable you to sail through life with a smile on you’re face. Sorry, I mean with a smile on your face. Phew!