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The Apostrophe

Discussion in 'The Pub' at netrider.net.au started by Mizz ZZR, Mar 8, 2006.

  1. Shame people around here aren't as anal about rules of grammar, as they are about rules of posting - people might actually learn something...

    The Apostrophe

    This poor little pet is the most abused punctuation mark in the language, and it's a dear little thing when you get to know it - all it wants to do is to please.

    It only has TWO functions to perform and they're both straightforward, but still it gets pushed in where it doesn't belong or left out of where it wants to be.

    Let's take a moment to sort this out once and for all ...

    1. To show OMISSION

    What's a nice kid like me, doing in a place like this?

    We started with two words, what and is, but because this is informal writing, we want to express it informally, so we omit a letter from the word is. Because we're well brought up little Vegemites (remember?), we let people know what we've done.

    I could've danced all night ... (could have, not could 'of')

    It's time for breakfast (It is time ...)

    It's been raining all day. (It has been raining ...)

    So, in future whenever you see an apostrophe, make a conscious effort to work out what the original word was before the letter was omitted. Sometimes, as in the case of could've and would've, more than one letter has been omitted.

    This will establish good habits and alert you to the role of the apostrophe.

    2. To show POSSESSION

    We went to Marmaduke's restaurant for dinner. (Marmaduke owns the restaurant; it is the restaurant of Marmaduke.)

    Notice how the apostrophe comes at the end of the noun (Marmaduke) and is accompanied by the letter 's' - a bit like a chaperone.

    We knew whom to blame for the missing pie; there was cream all over the dog's whiskers!

    We're only referring to one dog and it owns the whiskers (and the pie and a very satisfied smile, no doubt).

    Some words sound awkward when an apostrophe 's' is added:

    Jesus's disciples.

    The accepted form here is to just use the 's' apostrophe:

    Jesus' disciples.

    Others don't have the same clumsy sound:

    The princess's chair.

    The important thing is to be consistent in your use of the form - there really is nothing that is writ in stone!

    Confusion arises when the apostrophe is used with a plural noun.

    At the zoo, the children were most interested in seeing the lions' den.

    More than one lion owns the den, so we add the apostrophe after the 's' (this is the den of the lions).

    So, the general rule is:

    if there's one owner - add an apostrophe and then 's'
    if there are two or more owners - add 's' then an apostrophe.
    However, (and of course you're not surprised to hear this, are you?), there are exceptions to this rule.

    For words which form their plural by changing internal letters (instead of adding 's'), the apostrophe comes before the 's'.

    It was the children's turn to wash up.

    Children is already a plural word, so we don't need to make it doubly plural by adding 's' apostrophe; however, we do need to indicate the idea of ownership, so we use apostrophe 's'.

    Some other words which follow this rule are: men, women, people.

    When you have 'double possession' - when two or more people (or subjects) own one item and both (or all) of their names are mentioned, the apostrophe is applied only to the second (or last) name.

    We had coffee at Ermintrude and Marmaduke's mansion.

    When you're using names that end in -S, you follow the same rules as with any other name and add apostrophe S:

    Chris's car, Bridget Jones's Diary.

    Plural names also follow the same rules:

    Bill Thomas's car; the Thomases' new house (add -es to names that end in S to indicate plural form).

    The apostrophe is also used with many expressions of time (to show that the time period owns the other noun):

    an hour's time; a year's holiday

    BUT notice that we do not use the apostrophe with possessive pronouns (remember, these are the little guys who step in and lend a paw to nouns).

    After dinner at Marmaduke's restaurant, we went back to his place for coffee.

    The bird's feathers were ruffled. (The bird owns the feathers.)

    The bird ruffled its feathers. (The bird owns the feathers, but the pronoun its is being used instead of the noun, so there is NO apostrophe.

    You'll see it's and its used incorrectly nearly every single day and in places where it should never happen. An easy way to make sure you never confuse the two is to ask yourself (do this quietly, you don't want to alarm those around you), if the words it is can be substituted in the sentence- if the answer is yes, then whack in the old apostrophe.

    If the answer is no, then sit on your hands so you won't be tempted.

    The bird ruffled its (it is?) feathers. (NO)

    It's (it is?) a lovely day. (YES)

    To summarise, here is a good way to check if you need an apostrophe - for future reference:

    If you can substitute the use of "of" then you use the apostrophe.

    e.g. This is Marmaduke's house ... it is the house of Marmaduke.

    The children's mother phoned ... the mother of the children phoned.

    Three months' work ... the work of three months.
  2. Here is a shiny red apple for you Mizz ZZR, i'm off to have my playlunch now :p

  3. Cool! Thankyou!

    Run along now....
  4.  Top
  5. She already illustrated that. The lions' den example...

    If we want to continue the english lesson (some spell "english" when refering to the language as a non capitalised word or common noun. Others use it as a proper noun - English) The use of pluralising proper nouns such as:

    Ford have their runout sale this week. It is "Ford has its runout sale this week".

    When you refer to an entity it's done in the singular.

    "The employees of Ford are having their annual Christmas breakup at the Lang Lang proving ground this year, much to the consternation of GM/H which has vowed to stop them doing so."

    Or, when entering a subject title, you generally don't capitalise conjunctions.

    Eg: Ford in the News over Christmas Party.

    Next one. A software application that checks a document for spelling errors is NOT a spell checker. That's something that Doctor Bombay out of Bewitched may use. Rather. it's a spelling checker.

    Finally, an acronym is a pronouncable word, such as CASA (Civil Aviation Safety Authority) or DOTARS (Dept. of Trade and Regional Services).

    ABC, (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) and DCBS (Dual Combined Braking System) are not acronyms - try saying either of those words...
  6. I hate people who say 'could of'...
  7. And "I seen it"

  8. Ok I'll grant you that... I was just pushing the point regarding multiple owners possessing multiple things...

    ...the cat's toys [one cat has all the toys]
    ...the cats' toys [all the cats own/share the toys]
    ...the cats' toy [all the cats own/share the one toy]
    ...the cat's toy [the cat owns the toy]

    ...very powerful thing the apostrophe.


  9. m'm'm'm'm'm'm'm'm'm'm' nothin goin on's here's to see matey's movin right along little doggie's yeah ha ha ha :shock:
  10. Commas are just as powerful, check this sentence out:-

    I helped my uncle jack off a horse.
  11. Since there's no captial letter for "jack" then there's only one meaning for that sentence I'm afraid :p :LOL: (still funny though).
  12. I'm of the opinion that there shouldn't be a comma in that sentence, as there aren't what they tend to refer to as separate elements.

    In fact, I'd say that the sentence itself isn't very good grammar. eg:

    "I helped my Uncle Jack to get down off a horse."


    "I helped my uncle, whose name is Jack, to get down off a horse."

    There are some classic examples of misplaced commas in sentences that can alter the entire context or meaning of the sentence.

    I'm led to believe that law documents often don't carry any forms of punctuation so as to alleviate the risk of mis-interpretation of the document. This because a comma that's been put in the wrong spot can open it to be invalid or have a different meaning to that intended, etc..

    I just hope that the kids who grow up haunting internet forums, IRC and who live their lives SMSing each other don't become english majors at university (not that there's much chance of that, I s'pose...)
  13. Who do we aks if we have question's?
  14. Refer all questions of punktuation"s to Mizz ZZR she will clarfied all youse question"s :p :p Or try EFFIE :LOL: :LOL:
  15. There's also the use of "the" before abbreviations.

    For instance - you would say "the AWB" and "the TAC" but you wouldn't say "the MA" (Motorcycling Australia).

    The test is to say the full name out loud and see if it sounds correct with "the" in front.

    (and that's my piece of pedantry for the day :grin: )
  16. 100% wrong Martin...

    You don't get down off a horse, you get down off a duck... :LOL: :LOL: :LOL:

    (sorry - I really couldn't resist it - and I know it should be from not off)

  17. And then the Italian language adds further complexity with masculine and feminine words. At least we don't need to worry about that in the english language.
  18. French does that too. "La" for feminine "the". "Le" for masculine "the".
  19. Ouch!

    Like the one quoted above? :grin:
  20. We had a few new graduates start at my workplace last month. One of the first training courses they receive in their initial weeks is a business writing course with heavy emphasis on grammar and punctuation. It is already appalling coming from the current university graduates.