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.
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!