Know Thy English: Apostrophe 101

It’s a tiny thing, this apostrophe. But get it wrong, and you make every Grammar Nazi wince. (Not unlike Jeeves’ displeasure of Bertie’s wardrobe choices :P)

So if you’ve ever mixed up your it’s with its, now is the time to get it right once and for all.

Now we all know that an apostrophe is used for two things: possessions and contractions.

Possessions are quite straightforward, you use ‘s on the subject to indicate them.

Eg. John’s music band.

1) BUT, what if this band is co-owned by two people, John and Joan? The rule of thumb is to put an apostrophe on the final subject.

John and Joan’s music band (correct)

John’s and Joan’s music band (incorrect)

2) When the proper or common noun ends with an s, or while indicating possessive of plurals, things can get a bit confusing. And there seems to be no consensus on a correct usage, but you will never go wrong if you leave out the s and just end it with an apostrophe.

Jones’ car broke down. (correct) – You don’t say Jones’s!

Guys’ night out (correct) – ‘Guy’s night out’ would mean there was only one guy.

The Conundrum

If you’ve studied any language closely, you would have seen that rules get broken all the time. And how well you know the exceptions are what define your grasp at the language.

So, with apostrophe too there is one big exception, it is not used for pronouns –

And that’s exactly why its, hers, theirs are all correct.

Its tail is soft (correct)  vs  It’s tail is soft (incorrect!)

Who’s book is this? Hers. (correct) vs Her’s (incorrect!)

Who’s band is this? Theirs. (correct) vs Their’s (incorrect!)

But…what about IT’S?

Yes, it’s is a word but it’s a Contraction.

It’s -> It is.

It’s a good day! (correct)

That wolf, it’s so scary to listen to its howl. (correct)

So, there you go. I know that the study of apostrophe is a much deeper pit, but I’ve tried to cover the most common scenarios today. I might also do a Apostrophe 201 later on!

12 thoughts on “Know Thy English: Apostrophe 101

  1. Wow, I liked this one. The apostrophe is definitely something that a lot of individuals struggle with. Its funny, as I write this suddenly I’ve become very cautious of the way I place my commas and apostrophes. I really hope that those two words didn’t need apostrophes! One thing, when you said that you ‘might also do a Apostrophe 201 later on!’ was that meant to be an ‘an’ not an ‘a’. I’ve probably got it wrong.

    Nice job man!.

    – Ainsworth 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aha…you made a mistake – > “It’s funny”. You left out the apostrophe! 😛

      I guess most of times we’ll be able to get by just fine as people don’t seem to care, but in serious writing though it’s good to be prudent.

      And, it’s funny how “an” is grammatically correct in that sentence, but try to read it out loud and it sounds awkward! :O

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh gosh darn it! Ah well, I tried my best. Maybe next time I’ll get there. To be honest I don’t think ‘an’ sounds awkward in that sentence. I think ‘a’ definitely sound more awkward and incorrect.


  2. Good article man. Something that the internet really requires.

    Here’s another example. The seemingly simple change from

    Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes to
    Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes in 1996.

    Liked by 1 person

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