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Apostrophes

Apostrophes

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Author: Sophia Tutorial
Description:

Determine the correct placement of apostrophes in sentences.

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Tutorial

what's covered
In this lesson, you will learn how apostrophes indicate possession and contraction, and how to avoid common errors related to apostrophe use. Specifically, this lesson will cover:
  1. Apostrophes for Contraction
  2. Apostrophes for Possession
    1. Exception for Possessive Pronouns
  3. Correcting Apostrophe Errors

1. Apostrophes for Contraction

An apostrophe is a punctuation symbol that indicates possession, or is used to form contractions. Contractions are words formed by abbreviating or combining other words.

When you make a contraction, the apostrophe is added to the spot where missing letters used to be, indicating that cut.

EXAMPLE

"Could not" becomes "couldn’t." When the "o" gets cut, the apostrophe goes there in its place.

terms to know
Apostrophe
A punctuation symbol that indicates possession, or is used to form contractions.
Contraction
A word formed by abbreviating or combining other words.


2. Apostrophes for Possession

Apostrophes are also used to make words possessive, 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.

EXAMPLE

The dog's bone was buried.

EXAMPLE

The geese's flight pattern was efficient.

This apostrophe with the "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 your writing more concise, as you don’t have to write out "The bone of the dog was buried." That sounds awkward!

If, however, the possessor does end in an "s" or is plural, then you have to use the apostrophe differently. In that case, the apostrophe will come after the "s" that is already there.

EXAMPLE

If you were talking about many dogs, you would say, "The dogs’ park." If you were talking about one dog named Rufus, you would say, "Rufus’ bone."

See that there is still an "s" and still an apostrophe? They’re simply in a slightly different order.

Sometimes you will also use apostrophes to help readers understand the differences between words that are plural, possessive, both, or just end in "s."

EXAMPLE

There is a big difference between these two sentences: The cat's whiskers are dirty and The cats' whiskers are dirty.

In the first sentence, there is one cat and one set of whiskers to think about. In the second sentence, there are multiple cats and multiple sets of whiskers. 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.

2a. Exception for Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns are a kind of personal pronoun. Recall that personal pronouns are English pronouns that identify gender, person, number, and case.

The possessive ones, such as "his," "hers," "her," "their," "theirs," "our," "ours," "my," "it," and "its," indicate personal ownership. Notice how none of those uses 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.

terms to know
Personal Pronoun
A type of pronoun that identifies gender, person, number, and case.
Possessive Pronoun
A personal pronoun that indicates ownership.


3. Correcting Apostrophe Errors

To better spot errors of usage, it’s helpful to look at how apostrophes might work in the context of a piece of writing.

There are many times when students need help beyond what a professor or instructor can offer. These are circumstances that demand the attention of a tutor. A tutors skills may help a students performance in class. Moreover, seeing tutors may help a students confidence and comfort with the materials. Teachers will also benefit when their students see a tutor, because a teachers schedule is always overfull, and they often struggle to fit in meetings with students who need, and deserve, extra support. A tutors help can be invaluable to everyone involved and can create more successful classes.

You probably noticed that there are no apostrophes here. Where do they belong? Start by highlighting all the words that end in "s":

There are many times when students need help beyond what a professor or instructor can offer. These are circumstances that demand the attention of a tutor. A tutors skills may help a students performance in class. Moreover, seeing tutors may help a students confidence and comfort with the materials. Teachers will also benefit when their students see a tutor, because a teachers schedule is always overfull, and they often struggle to fit in meetings with students who need, and deserve, extra support. A tutors help can be invaluable to everyone involved and can create more successful classes.

Do any of these words need apostrophes? These underlined words are all plural, not possessive:

There are many times when students need help beyond what a professor or instructor can offer. These are circumstances that demand the attention of a tutor. A tutors skills may help a students performance in class. Moreover, seeing tutors may help a students confidence and comfort with the materials. Teachers will also benefit when their students see a tutor, because a teachers schedule is always overfull, and they often struggle to fit in meetings with students who need, and deserve, extra support. A tutors help can be invaluable to everyone involved and can create more successful classes.

You’ll notice that they indicate amounts of people or things, so none of them get an apostrophe.

But what about these underlined words?

There are many times when students need help beyond what a professor or instructor can offer. These are circumstances that demand the attention of a tutor. A tutors skills may help a students performance in class. Moreover, seeing tutors may help a students confidence and comfort with the materials. Teachers will also benefit when their students see a tutor, because a teachers schedule is always overfull, and they often struggle to fit in meetings with students who need, and deserve, extra support. A tutors help can be invaluable to everyone involved and can create more successful classes.

For these, ask yourself whether they own or belong to anything in their sentences. Here, the tutor owns the skills, so this is possessive and needs an apostrophe: A tutor's skills may help a students performance in class.

Here, the student will own the confidence and performance, so give each an apostrophe: A tutor's skills may help a student's performance in class. Moreover, seeing tutors may help a student's confidence and comfort with the materials.

Here, the teacher has a schedule that’s overfull, so this schedule belongs to the teacher: Teachers will also benefit when their students see a tutor, because a teacher's schedule is always overfull, and they often struggle to fit in meetings with students who need, and deserve, extra support.

And here, the help belongs to the tutor: A tutor's help can be invaluable to everyone involved and can create more successful classes.

In all of those spots, you need apostrophes. Just remember that plural words that are not possessive do not ever need apostrophes. It’s as simple as that.

summary
In this lesson, you learned that apostrophes are punctuation symbols used to indicate possession or form contractions. Apostrophes for contraction are added to words in place of a letter, as in "don’t" or "can’t." Apostrophes for possession are added either before or after an "s" at the end of a word, depending on whether the word is singular or plural. It’s important to remember that there is an exception for possessive pronouns, as these words never require an apostrophe to indicate possession. You also practiced correcting apostrophe errors in the context of a piece of writing by differentiating between possession and plurality in words that end with "s."

Best of luck in your learning!

Terms to Know
Apostrophe

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

Contraction

A word formed by abbreviating or combining other words.

Personal Pronoun

A type of pronoun that identifies gender, person, number, and case.

Possessive Pronoun

A personal pronoun that indicates ownership.