Apostrophes: Two Commandments

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Mattiello's avatar

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Apostrophe’s Rules:

         There are many different rules that deal with the terrible and often frustrating apostrophe, which is indeed the overall reason for its difficulty. It is unlike most of our other punctuation tool in that it is almost certainly one of the most versatile, yet it indubitably requires skill and excellent memory. I am, however, aware that some of you may already know most of the rules of the apostrophe, though I am also equally aware that being prudent and taking a casual glance just to make sure never hurt anyone.

       With that said, let me introduce the two greatest rules of the apostrophe in an easy-to-learn and interactive tutorial.


        The foremost and perhaps most recognizable use of the apostrophe is the use of it in a contraction. Usually a subject and a verb are meshed together, thus making the sentence quicker to say and much more informal.

We are going to the store.
We’re going to the store. (with contraction)
I have no money.
I’ve no money. (with contraction)
We do not need that right now.
We don’t need that right now. (with contraction)


         The second yet most useful of the apostrophe is the use of it as possession. Possession is obviously quite important to everyone, from a person’s shoes to a god’s glory. We tack on an apostrophe + "s" or just an apostrophe to the end of a word or phrase to distinguish what something belongs to. This doesn’t seem too difficult to some, but the intricacies of the possessive apostrophe can be extensive and sometime laborious to the common writer or student.

Showing possessive ending in (‘s):

Those are Dad’s doughnuts.
That is my dog’s toy
The house is Derick’s.


          Sometimes a name ends in an “s”. I simply add an apostrophe to show the possessive, but some people prefer to add the apostrophe + “s”. Either is technically correct, but why waste more ink?

Jesus’s or Jesus’
Nicholas’s or Nicholas’

Showing possessive ending in (‘) aka: Plural Possession

There is the cats’ food
We should go to the Elis’ house.
(family is a group, therefore, Elis is plural then add the possessive)
Give me the boys’ scarves, please.
How are the girls’ puppy faring, Jeff?

Special cases

Singular Noun Possession w/ more than one word (‘ + “s”) Subject is compound because of grouping of words -- usually a hyphenated subject

Let me see your friend-that-is-a-girl’s iPod. (“friend-that-is-a-girl” is a single subject)
Where is your daughter-in-law’s new groom?

Plural Noun Possession w/ more than one word (‘ + “s”) --usually a hyphenated subject

Look for my two sisters-in-law’s purses (noun: sister was pluralized)

Conjuncted Subject Possession (‘ + “s”) -- usually a noun combined with “and”

Jack and Jill’s hill is steep!
Josh and Amy’s dog is quite timid.

        These “two great commandments” of the apostrophe and its subjective rules are clear, concise, and a must-know for any aspiring writer, or it can be a refresher for the expirienced author. Either way, I hope you enjoy this tutorial
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mode-de-vie's avatar
A great tutorial! :)