Apostrophes and Pronoun Possessives: Common Issues
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Apostrophes and Pronoun Possessives: Common Issues

Apostrophes and Pronoun Possessives: Common Issues

Author: Linda Neuman
This lesson explores common errors made with apostrophes and how to correct them.
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It's vs. Its and other apostrophe issues

This audio follows the text in this packet. You can follow along with the text, or just listen.

Source: Linda Neuman

Its vs. It's and Other Apostrophe Issues

It’s a shame this example needs its own section.

Perhaps the most common abuse of the apostrophe is the persistence of incorrect usage for the word “it."

Simply put:

 If you didn’t mean to say “it is” or “it has,”

you didn’t need an apostrophe.

It’s a shame” is a more natural way of saying “It is a shame.”

So the contraction “it’s” is formed from the words “it is.”  All contractions require apostrophes to take the place of the letters that are removed.

Pronoun possessives, on the other hand, have no letters removed and do NOT require an apostrophe under any circumstances. So for “this example needs its own section,” the pronoun “it” refers to the “example” which in this case is the example of how to use or not use an apostrophe with this word.  No letters were removed, so no apostrophe is needed.

If the word “been” or “got” follows “it’s,” then you definitely need an apostrophe because you know you have a contraction that means “it has.” 

It’s been a long time = It has been a long time.

It’s got to go = It has got to go.

Examples of correct use of it’s

It’s (it is) time to go shopping.

Do you think it’s (it is) a good idea to take a break?

I meant to ride my bike more often, but it’s (it has) been too cold outside.


Examples of correct use of its (NO apostrophe)

The zombie searched for its next victim.

She threw down her purse, spilling its contents onto the floor.

The male Emperor penguin faithfully guards its egg.

Other pronoun possessives are theirs, yours, ours, hers, and the irregular pronouns his and myNotice there are NO apostrophes.

Another place you might be tempted to put an apostrophe would be after a decade, such as the 1960s.  But that’s a plural, and remember plurals do not require an apostrophe.  Same with CDs, DVDs, MP3s, CFCs, or any capital-letter abbreviation—to pluralize it, just add a lower case “s”, no apostrophe.

Your expression tells me you’re hoping I will explain further.

Try saying that sentence replacing both of the big red words with “you are.” This is what you get:

You are expression tells me you are hoping I will explain further.

Which of those doesn’t sound right?

Only one of them will sound right, because only one of them actually means the same thing as “you are.”  That’s the one that shortens to “you’re” when you take away the “a” and replace it with an apostrophe to make a contraction. 

The other word, “your,” is a pronoun possessive.  The expression in the sentence above belongs to you; it is your expression. No apostrophe is needed.


Examples of correct use of your (NO apostrophe):

You will need your umbrella today.

I found your schoolbag in my car.

Your dedication to this project is impressive.

Examples of correct use of you’re

Is it true you’re (you are) going to Europe?

You’re (you are) an exceptional student.

I know you’re (you are) upset about what happened.

At this point…

Your knowledge about apostrophes is increasing and you’re feeling more confident.

So try this one:

Their going shopping with they’re friends.

(They are) going shopping with (they are) friends.

Only one of those sounds right, so that’s the one that needs the apostrophe.

Did you catch the error?  If you didn’t, don’t be too hard on yourself.  This one was further complicated by the fact that you can spell the word three different ways:

they’re (they are)

their (pronoun possessive)

there (location)

To keep those straight, you can first try reading your sentence and replacing the word with “they are”—if it sounds right, you’ve got the contraction they’re.

For the location “there,” you can see the word “here” right inside it. 

That just leaves the pronoun “their,” so just remember that one is “ei” not “ie.”

Here’s one more for you to memorize: 

Whose and who’s.  One is an interrogative pronoun regarding possession of something, the other is a contraction that means either “who is” or “who has.” 

Your lesson in a nutshell: 

Contractions always get an apostrophe;

pronoun possessives never do.






Source: Linda Neuman