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2 Tutorials that teach Apostrophes
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Author: Martina Shabram

Differentiate between correct and incorrect apostrophe use in sentences.

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Hello, students. My name is Dr. Martina Shabram, and I will be your instructor for today's lesson. I'm genuinely excited to teach you these concepts, so let's get started.

Today, we're going to spend some more time with grammar, thinking about how apostrophes work in our writing. We'll learn about how apostrophes indicate possession versus contraction, and we'll practice working with apostrophes to spot errors. So an apostrophe is a punctuation symbol that indicates possession or is used to form contractions. Let's recall that contractions are words formed by abbreviating or combining other words.

When we make a contraction, the apostrophe is added to the spot where missing letters used to be-- indicating that cut. For example, "could not" becomes "couldn't." When the o gets cut, the apostrophe goes there.

Now, apostrophes are also used in possession, which indicates that something in the sentence belongs to something else in the sentence. For this purpose, the apostrophe connects the s to the possessor, such as "The dog's bone was buried," or "The geese's flight pattern was efficient." This apostrophe s is the correct way to indicate possession when the possessor is singular and when the word doesn't itself end in s or when the plural form is irregular, such as "geese," "their," or more commonly, "children." Using this apostrophe s makes our writing more concise as we don't have to write out "The bone of the dog was buried."

If, however, the possessor does end in an s or is plural, then we have to use the apostrophe differently. In that case, the apostrophe will come after the s that was already there. So if we're talking about many dogs, we would say "The dogs' park."

And if we're talking about one dog named Rufus, we'd say "Rufus' bone." So see there, that there is still an s and still an apostrophe? They're simply in a slightly different order.

Now, because English can be a little temperamental, there are also times when adding an apostrophe s to the end of a word is necessary, even when the word ends in s. This is usually because it reads more easily if we write something "The actress's award" instead of "The actress' award." So we sometimes use these apostrophes to help readers understand the differences between words that are plural, possessive, both, or just end in s.

For example, there would be a big difference between "The cat's whiskers are dirty" and "The cats' whiskers are dirty." in the former, there is one cat and one set of whiskers to think about. In the latter, there are multiple cats and multiple sets. You can see then that there are many times when a word will be plural and have an s at the end but won't be possessive.

So when won't we use an apostrophe in possession? Possessive pronouns are a kind of personal pronoun, and personal pronouns are English pronouns that identify gender, person, number, and case. The possessive ones-- such as his, hers, her, their, our, ours, my, and it-- indicate personal ownership.

Now, notice how none of these use an apostrophe. Possessive pronouns never do. If you find yourself in the proofreading stage of the writing process, you will want to look for incorrect use of possessive pronouns, such as when an apostrophe is added incorrectly.

So let's practice using apostrophes correctly and identifying the difference between possession and plurality. Take a moment to read this short paragraph by pausing the video here. Press play when you're ready to discuss the possessives, plurals, and apostrophes that you see-- or don't-- in this paragraph.

So you probably noticed no apostrophes here. Where then do they belong? Let's start by highlighting all the words that end in s. Do any of these words need apostrophes?

Well, these ones are all plural, not possessive. You'll notice that they indicate amounts of people or things, so they do not get an apostrophe. What about these words?

For these, we'll ask ourselves-- do these words own or belong to anything in their sentences? Well, this one here, "The tutor owns the skills." Right? So this is possessive, and it needs an apostrophe.

Here, the student will own the confidence and performance, so give it an apostrophe. Here, the teacher has a schedule that's overfull, so this schedule belongs to the teacher. And there, the help belongs to the tutor.

In all of those spots then, we need apostrophes. And remember, plural words that are not possessive do not ever need apostrophes. It's as simple as that.

So what did we learn today? We covered that use of apostrophes. We practiced how to use an apostrophe to indicate contraction and possession, how to navigate those awkward spots when we have plural and possessive words or words that end in s, and we looked at the times when we don't need apostrophe, such as with possessive pronouns and non-possessive plurals.

Well, students, I hope you had as much fun as I did. Thank you.

Terms to Know

A punctuation symbol that indicates possession, or is used to form contractions.

Personal Pronoun

English pronouns that identify gender, person, number, and case.


Indicates that something in the sentence belongs to something else in the sentence.