Conquering Tricky Apostrophes

Apostrophes are used in more ways than one in the English language. They are used to show a word has been abbreviated and also to show belonging. Both ways are commonly used in the English language and can be tricky – even for native speakers. This article is to show you how to conquer these tricky apostrophes in your writing.

TRICKY APOSTROPHES – PEOPLE

Example 1

  • ‘The charger belongs to Lucy.’
Conquering Tricky Apostrophes - Simply Better English
Conquering Tricky Apostrophes – Simply Better English

This sentence shows us who the charger belongs to. However, we could also write the sentence in a different way.

  • ‘This is Lucy’s charger.’

In this second example, the apostrophe is placed after the name of the person or thing that owns the item. A ‘s’ is included after the apostrophe.

Example 2

  • ‘The book belongs to Jenny.’

We can alter the sentence to include an apostrophe:

  • ‘That is Jenny’s book.’

If you are writing a text and are not sure about where to put an apostrophe always ask yourself: who does the item belong to?

Example 3

  • ‘The lady’s purse was pink.’

In this example, who does the item belong to? The purse belongs to the lady and an apostrophe is needed between the word ‘lady‘ and the ‘s‘.

Example 4

  • ‘The footballer’s boots were expensive.’

In this example, who does the item belong to?  The boots belong to the footballer and so an apostrophe is between the word ‘footballer’ and the ‘s‘.

Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 1

The sentences below need apostrophes in the correct places. Read through the sentences, then rewrite them with the apostrophes in the right places.

  • ‘David bag was missing.’
  • ‘Prince Harry motorbike was jet black.’
  • ‘The bank doors were shut.’
  • The queen place was huge.

Answers can be found at the end of this article.

TRICKY APOSTROPHES – THINGS

The same rule applies when the word refers to a noun that is not a human.

Example 5

  • ‘This is the teddy’s jacket.’
Conquering Tricky Apostrophes - Simply Better English
Conquering Tricky Apostrophes – Simply Better English

As with previous examples, the apostrophe comes before the ‘s’. It shows which item belongs to the teddy, i.e. the jacket belongs to the teddy bear.

Example 6

  • ‘This is the schools garden.’

As small as the apostrophe is, it is important to remember to include it. Without the apostrophe, the meaning of the sentence is unclear. The writer has not explained whether they are talking about more than one item (multiple schools) or if the garden belongs to the school. The sentence should be written like this:

  • ‘This is the school’s garden.’
Quiz Sign - Simply Better English
Quiz Sign – Simply Better English

Activity 2

Look at the sentences below. Some of the apostrophes are used correctly and some are not. Write down whether the sentence is correct or incorrect.

  • ‘The dogs bone is massive.’
  • ‘The television’s stand was broken.’
  • ‘During the night, the window’s handle was broken.’
  • ‘The trains door was not working.’

Answers can be found at the end of this article.

TRICKY APOSTROPHES – PEOPLE

The apostrophe rule applies when the word refers to more than one person too.

Example 7

  • ‘The cat, that the family owned, was awfully loud.’
Conquering Tricky Apostrophes - Simply Better English
Conquering Tricky Apostrophes – Simply Better English

In this sentence, there is more than one member of the family but the rule still applies. This means this sentence could be edited as follows:

  • ‘The family’s cat was awfully loud.’

Example 8

  • ‘The children’s disco was a lot of fun.’

In this case, an apostrophe is needed after the word children because the disco belongs to the group of children.

Keep in mind that apostrophes used for the purpose of belonging can be used for one individual and/or for a certain group too.

EXCEPTIONS

As you are aware, there are many rules in the English language. However, there are also many exceptions too.

Example 9

When a noun ends with a ‘s’ many people do not include a second ‘s’ after the apostrophe.

  • ‘Boris’ birthday party was spectacular.’

However, this is also correct.

  • ‘Boris’s birthday party was spectacular.’

When writing, both options can be used as they are both correct. In this instance, the key is to be consistent. If you start a text without a second ‘s’ after the apostrophe, keep the same rule throughout.

Activity 3

Read the text below. There are five words that need apostrophes. Rewrite the text to include the apostrophes.

I stood there at the dock.  The sea was clear. The boats door was bright blue. I opened the door and walked into the dining room. The rooms walls were grey and white. I saw Claude. Claudes outfit was sparkling. He was wearing his teams logo. Agnes was there too. Agnes shoes were dark brown.

Answers can be found at the end of this article.

This article looked at a number of tips to help you deal with tricky apostrophes.  Always remember to keep the key question in mind – who does the item belong to? – and you will be able to conquer them in no time. For some extra help, download Grammarly to your computer.

Here are the answers for the activities in this article.

Activity 1

  • ‘David’s bag was missing.’
  • ‘Prince Harry’s motorbike was jet black.’
  • ‘The bank’s doors were shut.’
  • The queen’s place was huge.

Activity 2

  • ‘The dogs bone is massive.’ (This is incorrect.) The correct way to write this sentence is: ‘The dog’s bone is massive.’
  • ‘The television’s stand was broken.’ (This is correct)
  • ‘During the night, the window’s handle was broken.’ (This is correct.)
  • ‘The train’s door was not working.’ (This is incorrect.)  The correct way to write this sentence is: ‘The train’s door was not working.

Activity 3

  • I stood there at the dock. The sea was clear. The boat’s door was bright blue. I opened the door and walked into the dining room. The room’s walls were grey and white. I saw Claude. Claude’s outfit was sparkling. He was wearing his team’s logo. Agnes was there too. Agnes’ shoes were dark brown.

The last sentence could also be written like: ‘Agnes’s shoes were dark brown.’

 

 

One Response

  • There are huge mistakes in the text, for example “The room’s walls were grey and white” is wrong. The right way to say it is: “The room walls were grey and white”.
    You don’t say “the room’s furniture”, you say “the room furniture”.

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