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!

Know Thy English: Advice vs Advise

This is a very simple mistake that I come across from time to time so thought I’d clear it once and for all.

Now, repeat after me –

Advice – Noun
Advise – Verb

Some folks, I can only suppose, are not even aware of the two forms and use ‘advice’ in both the scenarios which is incorrect.

So, when you want to say:

He gave me an advice.

You use the one with the ‘c’.

But when you want to say:

Please advise on the below.

You use the one with the ‘s’.

See? Easy peasy!!

Another word with such conundrum is practice. Again the same rules apply:

Practice – Noun
Practise – Verb

Peace out!

Know Thy English: “Stuffs” is not the plural of “Stuff”

I’ve been meaning to start a series of posts focused on the intricacies of the English language for a while now.

So for the first post, I’ve taken up something that is probably a very Indian mishap.

Take this for instance:

“Hey, what did you do yesterday!”

“Well, let me see! First I went to a movie, then we went bowling and then I shopped for shoes! I did all those stuffs!”

NO.

“Hey baby! Look at all the cool stuffs I bought for you!!”

NO AGAIN.

But WHY?

To understand why it is this way, you have to know of a concept called Uncountable Nouns. In the English language, a lot of things are classified as uncountable. These are the objects that do not have a plural form (are implicitly plural)  and also cannot be divided.

E.g. Milk, water, rice, sugar, hair etc.

These are the objects that we cannot count directly but always with an other form of measurement. For example, we can say a bag of rice or a liter of milk and so on but never rices or milks!

In contrast, take biscuit for example of which you can perfectly say – I have two biscuits!

But wait, STUFFS is a valid word too!

Only in its verb form but.

Par example:

“He stuffs the jute bag with the dead body.”

There! A perfectly correct sentence, see!

So that’s it! I do think most people know this but this stemmed off from a conversation I had with someone who simply loves to use the word “Stuffs” wrongly. I know for a fact that a lot of Indians make this mistake so if I’ve educated at least one I’ll consider this endeavor a success.