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Ken Stevens, Campbell Scientific, Inc., wrote:
Q: I hope you can provide the rule for this possessive. I have the following paragraph in a WORD document (*.doc):
/ *Based on all these considerations, it is _Campbell Scientific's _ position that the logger is functioning as designed and that the problems you are experiencing are related to improperly powering off of the logger. *
/Note: A logger is a specialized piece of data acquisition equipment. Campbell Scientific is the company that markets the loggers.
The question has to do which Campbell Scientific possession above. I wrote the possessive as shown but WORD suggests that the correct way is Campbell Scientifics'. I can find no rule that suggest this is correct. To my written eye my way looks correct. Can you help me understand this dilemma? I am using Microsoft Word 2002.
A: You are correct. In this situation, the two words /Campbell Scientific/ may be regarded as a single name and the possession rule applied in the same way as /Fred Blogg's hat/.
You don't specify whether it is the spelling (red) or grammar checker (green) in Word which gave you your problem. The grammar checker is useless and I have it turned off. A spell checker, or any computer program for that matter, can never hope to 'understand' all the varied structures that may occur in an English sentence. The word /scientific/ is normally an adjective and would therefore not normally be expected to show possession. But in this case it is used as a noun, the name of the company, and so Word is fooled.
R: Thank-you for your quick response. Have a great weekend.
Linda Miatt, UK, wrote:
Q: I am a Year 3 teacher. Please help clarify an amiable dispute between myself and a colleague. How would you HAND write contractions such as:
I think you would join the don, leave a gap, then write the t, then put the apostrophe in the gap. My colleague insists that you would write the do, leave a small gap, then the nt written together, with the apostrophe just between them.
Your advice would be much appreciated.
A: Well, this is a handwriting issue more than a grammatical one, especially as you both agree where the apostrophe should be.
I'm on your side here, although I can see your colleague's reasoning. Although /don't/ is a contraction of /do not/ it is established as a single 'word' and if it is never printed with a gap, why would one want to make a difference when writing it? Does your colleague type it with a gap? If not, why is he or she inconsistent in this respect? How does he or she actually say it? With a small gap? :-)
I have never tried my method with Yr 3, but it does work with Yr 5 and especially Yr 6.
Tim Martin, Surrey UK, wrote:
Q: I would be extremely grateful if you would settle an argument that is raging in the office amongst people who really should know better (they are experts in intellectual property!).
The argument refers to the period that must be given before a change can
be introduced. Is it:
a) X will give at least 3 months notice .............
b) X will give at least 3 month's notice ............
c) X will give at least 3 months' notice ...........
I hate to think how much the time wasted over arguments about this has cost the office and I now fear my sanity is at risk over the squabbling of these prima donnas! An early reply will be very much appreciated.
A: The question is really whether /months/ in this case is a noun 'possessing' the notice or an adjective describing the notice.
If one regards it as a possessing noun, then the answer lies on the page of the website concerning possessives. The word /months/ here is a plural (more than one month) so it follows the same track as /boys coats/ on that page.
Pretend Chaucer = 3 monthses notice
Modern correct form = 3 months' notice
The /es/ is replaced by the apostrophe.
One could argue that /months/ here is used to describe the length of notice required and although a noun, is in this context de facto an adjective, and therefore requires no apostrophe as nothing is missing, case /a/ above.
As we derive this from the Germanic roots of English, it seems sensible to have some regard to the German. It is clear from that usage that months (Monate) is used as a descriptor and is not a genitive case. It also seems to more logical as a month cannot 'own' the notice.
I would therefore opt for
a) X will give at least 3 months notice .............
Who wins? :-)
R: Very many thanks for your prompt reply. Modesty prevents me from saying who had the right answer! The office is now a quieter place.
Eddie Murphy, USA, wrote:
Q: The gun that belongs to Raines would be Raines's gun, right? Not Raines' gun. I had my screenplay proofread and the reader told me it would be the latter. Raines is one person and he has a gun. I looked up writing samples online and found several professional screenplays where the rule isn't being used properly. Is Raines's gun correct? It does look kind of funny...
A: Well, it does look funny, but it prevents ambiguity. If you use /Raines'/ gun there might be a family called Raine who all share a gun. (Unlikely, especially in the USA, I know, but we are talking grammar here.)
By using /Raines's gun/ it makes it clear in the written form that it is one person called Raines who has a gun. Of course, context may establish this anyway, and the line when spoken would obviously be in a context. Spoken and written forms of English can vary. As this is a screenplay designed to be spoken, just say it the way it sounds right and the meaning is clear. But to keep the meaning clear to a reader of the written word, use the correct grammatical format.
Anne Clarke, "HeadsUpScotland", the National Project for Children and Young People's Mental Health, wrote:
Q: Here at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (where the three of us discussing this have 7 degrees between us!) we are having a heated debate about the correct place for the apostrophe in a title of research. The research which is considering 720 unconnected individual's response to external effects of stress, including psychological, biological and social. We want to know how to phrase the title of the research, please?
Sue (name withheld), UK, Wrote:
Q: I work as a teaching assistant in a primary school. Today, the teacher taught the children (year 4) about using apostrophes to indicate the informal contraction of certain words.
On the board she wrote the following heading for the work the children would be doing in their literacy books:
"Using Apostrophe's to Shorten Words". It might even have read "Using apostrophie's to shorten words", or even "Using apostrophies's to shorten words".
At any rate, before the children arrived, I mentioned to her that I didn't think there was a need for an apostrophe in the heading.
She disagreed. In fact she insisted that she was correct.
Perhaps you'd like to comment?
A: Point out to her that actually she has lengthened the word by inserting an unnecessary apostrophe. Ask her what letters are missing to require the apostrophe.
Had I seen that when I was a head teacher, I would have called for some urgent in-service training! I am afraid that many of today's teachers are those who were in school themselves in the period when to teach grammar was frowned upon as getting in the way of understanding etc. Those people are now teaching the new generation the same errors. As ye sow, so shall ye reap! :-)
Maybe you should point her to the website!
R: Thanks for your prompt reply. I'm afraid my relationship with this particular teacher would take a nosedive if I were to point her to your website! This particular teacher cannot admit that she is wrong.
John Chisholm, UK, wrote:
Q: Dear Sir:
In correspondence a chap referred to me as "a working mans' Lenin.
In a fit of pique I chided him for his misuse of the apostrophe and said it should be "working man's Lenin."
The academic help he sought agrees with him but following your simple rule I cannot see how this can be.
If I'm wrong I'll have to apologize. Do I need to?
Sincerely John Chisholm UK
A: In short, no. I believe you were correct. But the whole concept is odd. Are there other Lenins? Was there an aristocrats' Lenin? A bourgeois Lenin even? If not, why describe someone as a working man's Lenin?
Not very clear thinkers...
Stefanie D'Avanzo, USA wrote:
Q: Please settle an office dispute.. which is correct way to spell the possessive singular usage for propertys (one property) as property's or propertys'
A: If it is one property one is talking about, then /property's/ is correct. e.g. 'The property's lease has been renewed.' For more than one property, the plural is /properties/. In that case it would be 'The properties' leases have all expired.'
Who wins the bet? :-)
R: Thanks for your help...
David A Barrett, Canada, wrote:
Q: I was wondering about the use of "nor" in the following phrase:
"No reservation desired nor required"
Should it be "or"? Would it make more sense with a comma in front of "nor"?
A: I think either is acceptable, perhaps with a slight bias towards /nor/ as it's a negative phrase. The comma is not necessary in either case.
The meaning is clear either way, and that is what language is about, after all!
Jeffrey Jones, Widnes UK, wrote:
Q: Is it true words ending in x or z do not require a possessive apostrophe?
A: No. For example fox. One fox in his lair would be the fox's lair. A family of foxes in their lair would be foxes' lair. See the section on 'Parents children' to explain why it's not foxes's lair.
At this time on a Good Friday morning I am unable to think of a word ending in z, but the rule would still apply.
Kristin Stewart, USA, wrote:
Q: I have an apostrophe question. You say use an apostrophe when something is missing. What about its use with acronyms? Clearly many letters are missing. On the Dr. Grammar website he said you would not use an apostrophe for the plural form of an acronym. This makes sense with your rule.
We sell Coded Wire Tags (CWTs). Something is Coded Wired Tagged. Is this
thing CWTed or CWT'ed? I guess it's the former.
A: Let's first establish a difference between an acronym and a set of initials. Your CWT example is not an acronym but initials. Purists would no doubt argue that it should be C.W.T. anyway. But the usage of full stops after initials as in U.S.A. or U.K. has reduced in recent years leading to USA and UK and in your case CWT. Initials are not words and to say CWTed is really a jargon, attempting to apply standard rules to a jargon expression. Nothing wrong with that per se, it's a useful a shorthand for people who understand what they mean by it. Written down I would prefer CWTed to CWT'ed.
Acronyms are an attempt to create a new word from initials. Sometimes the initials lend themselves to it easily, e.g. UNESCO. Sometimes, especially in German, the first part of each word is used to abbreviate a long term into a shorter one, the most infamous example being the Secret State Police, Geheime Staats Polizei. Take the first letters of each word and you have Gestapo. It can be argued that an acronym such as Gestapo is a new word in itself, especially when imported into English, and should therefore be subject to normal grammatical rules. So "The Gestapo's headquarters were in Prinz Albrecht Straße" requires the apostrophe because it's a possessive. Had there been several Gestapos - well, that's a plural.
R: Thank you for your rapid response. I was not expecting a reply at all. Your input will help me as I am updating a portion of our company website.
Andrea Fine, USA, wrote:
Q: "..socially prominent friends of the Guggenheims'...." Is this correct?
A: No, because the proper noun Guggenheims is not a possessive, just a plural. It should be
"..socially prominent friends of the Guggenheims...."
However, if you said "the Guggenheims' friends" that would require the apostrophe because the noun Guggenheim is now a possessive. So applying the 'Chaucer' rule one would have had
"the Guggenheimses friends" and in modern terms the /es/ is replaced by the apostrophe leaving "the Guggenheims' friends".
But in your example "..socially prominent friends of the Guggenheims'...." the noun Guggenheims is simply a plural meaning more than one Guggenheim with prominent friends. The word /of/ takes care of the possession.
R: Thanks so much. I think I get it. You saved the day! Andrea
Jim Ballantyne, UK, Wrote:
Q: I enjoyed reading your article on the apostrophe. How about 'the Joneses' house'? There is more than one Jones living at, or owning the house, so in this case it is plural
A: So you have it correct. In my opinion, the rule applies successfully. Much depends on what you regard as the plural of Jones. Proper names often do not follow rules. People *say* /Joneses/ as in "I'm going round to see the Joneses" but one could equally well say "I'm going to see the Jones" which implies plurality, as if Fred Jones lived alone, one would say "I'm going to see Fred Jones". Horses for courses. :-)
David Reid, Canada, wrote:
Q: I read your article on the use of apostrophes, and wondered if I could get your opinion on the use/placement of an apostrophe in the following situation:
"The borrower(s) rights must be observed."
With the possible plural of the word borrower in play, it's not clear to me whether the apostrophe should appear before or after the bracketed s. The easy way out, of course, would be to re-write the sentence as:
"The rights of the borrower(s) must be observed"
This is likely the approach that I'll recommend, but I did still wonder about the appropriate placement of the apostrophe in the first example. If you have insights or comments, I'd be interested in reading them.
A: It's an interesting one, and you are the first to raise it. It shows how language is dynamic and ever changing. Having the /s/ in brackets shows that the writer intends to cover both singular and plural possibilities, but of course, there would be an /s/ there anyway. Perhaps a more pedantically accurate rendition (but an absurd one) would be
"The borrower(')s(') rights must be observed."
indicating that the apostrophe could be either before are after the /s/ depending on whether the instance was singular or plural.
Your second version is not just the easy way out, it is also sensible and I would argue, better grammatically.
R: Thanks very much for your quick response.
Madeleine Bruce (aged 10) wrote:
Q: Please can you tell me which is correct
James' rabbit is called Floppy or James's rabbit is called Floppy? Is
there any difference between the American English rule and the English English rule?
A: Hi Madeleine
If you read the section on the page about Possessives there is a section called The Book of Cassius. I might have called it the Rabbit of James, but I wrote it before you wrote to me.
I suggest that James's rabbit is better. This follows the rule and makes it clear that there is one James who has a rabbit. If there were two boys called James who shared a rabbit, we could show that by saying James' rabbit, which again follows the rule.
There are many differences between British and American English, some of them in American are leftovers that have fallen out of use in Britain, others were purposely adopted by the Americans to make their English different at a time when some were very keen to be separate from Britain. But the rules for apostrophes are normally the same. Some try to make them different, especially a group from Chicago, but Americans argue about that among themselves.
Any language which is in daily use is constantly changing and evolving, so there are no absolute rights and wrongs. Even Shakespeare used to spell the same word differently on different days! So one goes with what is accepted usage at any one time and what makes the meaning of the language the most clear to the reader or listener.
Lorraine Graves wrote:
Q: Thank you for a clear rule about apostrophes and their use. My son's teacher, who suggested your web site, has offered a prize for anyone who can actually understand page three. I work as a plain language specialist in another field. Perhaps running page three past such a person in your area of expertise would make an important idea even clearer. Also, as I understand it, your translation of the German phrase /The man's coat/ may, at best, not be common usage. Well done in your efforts to teach the care and feeding of punctuation marks.
A: Thank you for your email.
I am sorry if you are having problems with page 3. It is of course the area of apostrophe usage that causes the most confusion. As I say on the website, it is based on many years of teaching this system successfully to primary children. I have done my best to translate what happened in the classroom with its interactive nature to the static written page.
Perhaps if you could cite more detailed examples of which part you are finding difficult I could look at rewording it.
Der Mantel des Mannes is to illustrate the concept of genitive suffixes and is not intended to reflect modern, colloquial German usage.
I am please that the teacher concerned has found the site and finds it useful enough to suggest. I hope your son wins the prize!
Loreli Wright (Sheridan Oregon) wrote:
Q: I've ordered a metal outdoor sign for my husband for his
birthday. The proprietor asked, if I wanted The Wright's or The Wrights' on it? I asked which is correct? He said he didn't know, but he would make it anyway I wanted. Great - now I'm confused! Our last name is Wright - I'd really like for it to be correct - which one would you say is correct?
A: Interesting. It all depends how one interprets it. The problem arises in part because the words are not in the context of a sentence but a stand alone sign.
If you put /The Wrights/ simply as a plural, it shows that this is where the Wrights live. Go in here and you will find the Wrights, more than one person called Wright.
If you put /The Wrights'/ it implies possession and is perhaps short for The Wrights' House, with the word House missed off. One might say, "I'm calling round to the Wrights' " meaning I am calling at their house. One could also say, "I am calling round to see the Wrights" meaning I am going to see more than one person called Wright.
If you which to have only the two words on the sign, which ever one you use you run the risk of people who interpret it the other way telling you it's wrong!
An easier way might be to use a different form of wording, for example to include the word House, if appropriate. This may increase the cost of the sign though. You would then have / The Wrights' House / which shows it is possession and should stop any argument. another option might be to evade the issue entirely by having a sign that simply says /Wright/ showing that a family called Wright live there.
I am sorry I cannot give you a more definitive answer, names often cause the most problems with grammar generally because they frequently don't the usual rules. See my reply to Eddie Murphy!
I would be interested to know what you decide to do. I hope he likes it whatever.
Renee Burgard wrote:
Q: Is it correct to write:
Patients that get Athena/Genetic Testing will most likely not be covered by their insurance companies.
or should I write:
Patient's that get Athena/Genetic Testing will most likely not be covered by their insurance companies.
Please let me know right away please. It is really bothering me to not know the correct way to write this. Thank you so much for your help.
A: The first is correct.
Patients that get Athena/Genetic Testing will most likely not be covered by their insurance companies.
It is simply a plural noun, not possessive.
Kristie Fehr (Ontario, Canada) wrote:
Q: Hello, just wondering if you can clear up a dispute at the office:
Which of the below would be a proper use of the apostrophe:
1. I have both my client's authority.
2. I have both my clients' authority.
A: There is a more at issue here than the apostrophe. Given that one is talking about two clients, each of whom can give authority, then we have more than one client and more than one authority. So strictly speaking it should be
I have both my clients' authorities.
But that may seem over pedantic so one could rephrase the whole thing and use /authority/ in a generic sense as in
I have authority from both my clients.
If you don't wish to go as far as that, I suggest you use your version 2 above.
Bryan Hiestand wrote:
Q: I liked your site. I was just looking for a reference to send to someone, and I had never thought the "es" from the chauncer days came from german, even though I spoke it for quite a while. You also prompted one question. Although I'm sure it doesn't change, what do you do with odd names with odd endings? Karie is a great example. Karie's books? How would that be written in middle english? I don't know, I guess I just don't like it. I prefer german and tagalog. The only thing nice about english is the slight nuances in the use of different adjectives.
Do you have anything that would help me teach people to pronounce and spell my name correctly? I'm tempted to use a large wooden stick, but that's not always readily available. People tend to ignore the "I before e except after c" rule.
A: /Karie's books/ looks OK to me. As for how it would be written in Middle English, fortunately that's not a problem, nobody speaks it anymore.
The use of the German roots of English for the genitive case was simply a teaching aid, and as I say, a simplification to give people a structure for correct use of the apostrophe.
Proper nouns (names of things, people etc.) rarely follow the rules in any language and one has to take them on a case by case basis.
On the pronunciation of your name, I suggest the large stick. Given that you say you are German speaker, I assume you prefer /Heestant/ but you could always pretend you thought they were talking to someone else. I have a friend called Steinberg, and I always say it in the German way, but he usually says Steenberg. :-(
Christine Michael, (UK) wrote:
Q: Thanks for your website! Could you help with this query please?
'Members are encouraged to accept each others' weaknesses as well as to celebrate each others' strengths.'
Are the apostrophes in the right place in this sentence or should it read:
Clarification would be gratefully received.
A: The issue revolves around whether we are dealing with a singular or a plural. Because of the nature of the situation it would at first appear it is a plural, but on examination it is in fact singular. Try expressing it this way, "Members are encouraged to accept the weaknesses of each other as well as to celebrate the strengths of each other."
Now it can be seen that /each other/ is singular and therefore the rule should be applied in that way.
other otheres other's.
Members are encouraged to accept each other's weaknesses as well as to celebrate each other's strengths.
R: Thank you for your very prompt and helpful reply; it saved me a sleepless
Tricia Swope wrote::
Q: Is it Police Officers Association or Police Officer's Association? It is plural, but the association does not belong to them.
A: Doesn't it? Perhaps not in the sense of owning land, buildings etc. but it's for them surely? (I'm an ex cop remember, among other things!)
So, is it an association for one officer, or all of them? You see where this is going? :-)
Police Officers' Association
Joan Marie Poholarz, Legal Assistant, Dyer, Indiana, USA, wrote:
Q: How would you write your client, John Doe's claim - I have been told to write it your client's, John Doe's, claim - this cannot be right please help!!!
A: Looks and sounds horrible, I agree. Both sentence structure and the comma are to blame. According to rule it is correct however, so we need to find a way of avoiding it.
If you were to remove the comma so it reads /your client John Doe's claim/ this could be said to correct because now the words /client John Doe/ form a single unit, like President George W Bush or Queen Elizabeth II. In other words because the comma is removed, /client/ becomes a sort of title attached to John Doe.
Another way would be to rephrase the sentence entirely, e.g. /I refer to the claim submitted by your client John Doe/ or similar.
I hope this helps.
Do you know why Americans always refer to an unknown person as John Doe? :-)
Maria, British Red Cross, National Headquarters, wrote:
Q: I have read your site and need you to still confirm something for me, please?
Where, in the following sentence, does the apostrophe go?
A persons Will can help the Society is all of its work
The word "Will" in this case is as in Last Will and Testament.
I say there isn't one - but a colleague says there is one in "persons" and my boss agrees.
I have had them both insist and my boss explain how and why - but I still feel my English teacher smacking my wrist for putting apostrophes in places they shouldn't belong!!! That was 25 years ago now!!!!
Help me please!!!!!
(and forgive my excessive exclamation mark usage)
A: I think your English teacher must have been a fearsome person! I am afraid that your colleague and Boss are correct on this one. It is a possessive and therefore should be in the genitive (possessive) case.
Using the system on the website:
/person/ using 'Pretend Chaucer' becomes /persones/ which we abbreviate to /person's/.
A person's Will can help the Society in all of its work.
R: She was!
Got me the sad accreditation of being the first 11 year old to ever get detention at my school :-)
Nancy Marsillo wrote:
Q: Kid's Karnival or Kids' Karnival? (we are spelling carnival with a K because it takes place during a 10K run) Thanks! Nancy
A: /Kid's/ would be correct if it were a carnival for just one kid! Unlikely.
So you start with the plural /Kids/ because you have lots of them.
"Pretend Chaucer" = Kidses
Modern usage = Kids'
Libbie Willard, Carolina, USA, wrote:
Q: My friend's name is Adams. Somewhere in grade school, I was told the rule for possessive nouns varied depending on whether the noun was one syllable of more than one syllable. Would you write "Adams' life" or "Adams's life"?
Would the rule be the same for a one syllable proper noun ending with "s"?
My nickname is Sis, so I think one would write "Sis's car...".
Thank you so much for your help.
A: Whoever told you that should have been sacked. The number of syllables is not a factor. Just apply the rule!
Dee Dee Strombeck, Linn-Benton Community College, USA, wrote:
Q: Thank you so much for participating in this year's fair.
Do I need an apostrophe?
My boss thinks I do.
A: Your boss is correct. :-)
It's /the fair of this year/ and as such is in the genitive case. In old English "Pretend Chaucer" this would therefore have had the /es/ case ending, now shortened to /year's/.
Hope this helps.
Dempsey, USA, wrote:
Q: Should an apostrophe be used in any part of the title of an organization, such as,
The River Forest Ladies Golf Association
The River Forest Ladies' Golf Association
Q: Then why not "The River Forsest's Ladies' Golf Association"?
A: I assumed River Forest was a place. It therefore describes the ladies, not possess them. The Golf Association on the other hand is the association of the ladies.
Richard Gregg, Stockport, UK wrote:
Q: I am a trophy engraver and somewhere in my distant past I understood that the apostrophe was not used when using capitals e.g:
MANAGERS PLAYER OF THE YEAR
as opposed to
Manager's Player of the Year
Your comments would be appreciated
A: I think you should use apostrophe. In that way you know it's one Manager you are referring to, and not several. Is /MANAGERS/ a plural or possessive? It's not clear until you insert the apostrophe in the correct place.
I am not a great fan of using all capitals anyway - I think a larger size or emboldened looks better, and avoids these problems. Most newspapers have given up headlines in capitals, thank goodness. Is using capitals the only way to provide emphasis when engraving?
R: Thank you for this. In truth using Capitals is easier than changing from upper to lower case and is "bolder" than it as well
"Der Keeper", USA, wrote:
Q: Thank you for all your help, but I am a little confused about Veterans Day. I have seen the government spell it three ways.. Veterans, Veteran's, and Veterans' Day. Which one is correct? Thank you again. David.
A: Is it a day for one Veteran, or many. If the whole day is to celebrate one Veteran - lucky guy - then it will be Veteran's Day.
In the more likely case that it is to celebrate all Veterans, then applying 'Pretend Chaucer' we get
Veterans - Veteranses - Veterans'
So Veterans' Day is correct. Just because they work for the government doesn't mean they know English grammar! :-)
Katka Poznickova, UK, wrote:
Q: Can I ask you whether you write Paris's or Paris' when we say a sentence "Working in Paris'(s) famous hotel.." ?
Thank you in advance!
It's also how one says it.
The section on the Possessives page about The Book of Cassius explains this.
Caroline M Taylor, Tesco, UK wrote:
Q: I have looked at your website and particularly the Cassius theory and so think that we are right in what we are saying as the store is actually called Morrissons.
If you could let me know if we are correct that would be great.
"Asda's, Sainsbury's and Morrissons's prices can be found on www.tesco.com/price check"
A: Ouch. The company was founded in 1899 by William Morrison so correctly it should be Morrison's. (You have too many /s/). But they have failed to use the apostrophe calling the store Morrisons. So technically you are correct, but as it's a double possessive in fact it looks a bit of a mess.
Probably too late now to rephrase it?
Prices at Asda, Sainsbury's and Morrisons can be found at www.tesco.com/price check
Nichola Hayton wrote:
Q: I think it should be 'dos' and 'don'ts' Or 'dos and don'ts'. Can you help me sort this out??
Also - do we say the 60s or the 60's?
A: The problem arises because you are trying to use a verb as a noun, and then ascribe a case ending to it, which verbs don't normally have. So in some ways it's a slang expression outside the rules of grammar. It's better when spoken than written. My own feeling is that you version is better than the student's.
60s - it's a simple plural. You need to use a possessive but the apostrophe would come after the /s/. "60s' music is better than today's."
Sharon Tong , Hong Kong, China, wrote:
Q: I wonder which one of the following is correct:
1. Gideon Ma's Supermarket
2. Gideon Ma Supermarket
A: On the assumption that /Gideon Ma/ is a person, then your first option would be correct.
R: Thank you very much!!
Sandy Edwards. Loughborough, UK wrote:
Q: At school I was taught that apostrophes should be used as you have stated but that if a word could not become a plural, e.g. England (as far as I am aware there is only one), then the apostrophe should be used in the case of a missing letter ("England is" becomes "England's"), but not for the possessive form ("the people of England" becoming "Englands people", not "England's people").
A: I have never heard of that. I think your teacher was just plain wrong. How about, "There are two Englands - the north and the south."
R: Thanks for your prompt reply. It will help with the urgent proof reading I am doing - the author has a mixture of the two.
Paula, UK, wrote:
Q: Please tell me which is correct - The Maloneys' new address will be or The Maloney's new address will be ?
A: The former if there is more than one Maloney, the latter if there is just one Maloney.
But I'd be inclined to reword it to avoid the problem.
The Maloney Family have moved and now live at ...
Names are always more difficult and often don't follow the 'rules'.
R: That was very helpful. Thank you very much.
David Sidley wrote:
Q: Please help me!
"Do's and Don'ts" I know there isn't supposed to be an apostrophe after DO. I just can't explain why. Can you give me an explanation?
A: There is nothing missing. The addition of the /s/ is to make a plural form of /do/. The problem is that grammatically speaking, only nouns can have plurals in this way, not verbs. The expression is a form of slang and is understood to mean /things that one should do and things that one should not do/. In this case /do/ and /don't/ are verbs being used as though they are nouns and then attempting to apply plural forms to them, so grammatical problems are inevitable. Also, simply adding /s/ to /do/ makes it look like an early Microsoft operating system, DOS, rather than the intended meaning.
How to express such ungrammatical vernacular forms poses problems for pedants!
Gillian Fearn wrote:
Q: I teach English as a foreign language in Bilbao, Spain. In my last class I found conflicting information about the use of apostrophes with numbers and dates in two standard reference books. I've taken a look at your Q & A section, but can't seem to find anything that clarifies the point in question.
One book says that, for example, 1800s or the 60s don't need apostrophes as they are plurals. However, another book states that apostrophes in these cases are acceptable. I see the logic of the first, but I've seen examples of the second so many times I'm no longer sure! Moreover, the second book is practically the bible of EFL teaching. I hate not being able to give my students a clear answer! Being a child of the seventies (70s? 70's?) I'm sure you know that I never had any grammar drummed into me. How did they expect us to learn it? By osmosis?
Looking forward to your answer.
A: Hi Gillian
The use of apostrophes in plurals of dates and initials (see sidebar on the Possessives page of the website) is becoming more common. I maintain though that it is still incorrect. Wider incorrect usage makes it familiar so that it starts to look correct, which makes more people use it and so it goes on.
I would point out to your students that as in any language there is much incorrect usage by native speakers and they should be aware of this.
Wasn't it Henry Higgins who said you can tell a foreigner because their English is too good? :-)
Rob Andrew wrote:
Q: I recently received a wedding invitation which included the following line -
'Elizabeth and Guy's wedding'
Am I correct in thinking that the apostrophe should be after the 's'?
A: No, not unless Elizabeth is heading for polygamy and marrying two people called Guy!
This is the wedding of Elizabeth and Guy so the possessive applies to both. It really should be
'Elizabeth's and Guy's wedding'
Although grammatically correct, some people might think it sounds a bit strange, so they might consider rephrasing this to avoid the double possessive.
R: Thank you very much for prompt reply.
Jack and Jean Doswell wrote:
Q: Please help: which of the following is correct? She should try to show how religion affects people's lives OR peoples' lives. Many thanks.
A: This is similar to my answer to John Clifford above.
Here you are using /people/ as a plural noun, so the analogy would be with /children/ already a plural noun. So in this case /people's lives/ is correct (IMHO).
/People/ can sometimes be used as a singular noun and then made plural, e.g. /peoples of the world/ etc. If one wished to show possession in that case, applying the rule to a plural noun would render /peoples'/.
R: Thank you so much for such a prompt reply to my query. Indebted!
Q: I will be writing out invitations for a birthday party at a local club.The name of the birthday boy is Alan Cowan and the club is the Firemans club, so it will go something like this. Please join us for Alan Cowans 50th birthday to be held at York Firemans club. where would the apostrophe(s) go in that sentence? Thanks in anticipation. By the way, you have a very interesting site which I enjoyed reading. I think it should be apostrophe between the n and s in cowans and apostrophe after the s in firemans Jim.
A: You are right on the first one, /Alan Cowan's /.
But I am puzzled by the second. Is it the Firemans Club or the Firemens Club. The former would indicate it's a club for just one fireman! If it really is /Firemans/ then being singular the apostrophe should be /Fireman's/ and if it's /Firemens/ then following the example on the site of children, it should be /Firemen's/.
R: Thank you Patrick. Jim
Q: When a phrase has been printed in all capital letters that doesn't alleviate the need for an apostrophe does it? My husband recently had his HVAC service truck lettered and we had the phrase "Fixed Right Or It's Free!" put on it. The decal shop put it on the truck in all caps and alleviated the apostrophe, "FIXED RIGHT OR ITS FREE!". I have seen other phrases in all caps with the apostrophes alleviated and just wondered whether there was a grammatical rule I am missing or are people just plain lazy these days.
Thanks so much!
A: Go back to the sign writer and get your money back! There is no reason to omit the apostrophe simply because capital letters are involved. Perhaps there's room to squeeze one in?
Henry Casson (United States?) wrote:
Q: I have had occasion to write down the possessive of the English name Mudge, which I am sure is Mudge’s, but I have a trace of doubt . The complication is the final letter e. If he lived in Chaucer’s time, which he didn’t, what would have been used as the possessive ? Is it possible that this could be an exception because without the apostrophe the spoken pronunciation is clear?
A: I think you are right. Without the apostrophe there might be some contexts in which /Mudges/ might be either possessive or plural, more than one Mudge. Using the apostrophe ensures that the meaning and usage is clear.
Tony Payn wrote:
Q: I have it now, thank you for a clear and enjoyable explanation.
In the example of Cassius's book, I was a bit thrown by the entry in the first column of the table (Cassiuss book). I came to the conclusion that the double 's' ending here was a typo on your part, but then thought perhaps this was the un-punctuated form of "what was required". However that did not follow all of the other tabulated examples, some of which give in the first column an explanation of "what is required". There is no column heading for the first column, so I wasn't sure.
Anyway I'm not trying to be picky, just mention it in case it was a typo. I think your explanation is the simplest and easiest to remember that I've seen, so thank you.
A: Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad the site has helped.
The first column on that page varies, but generally can be seen as stating the problem. In the case of Cassius, the additional /s/ is not a typo but is placed because people know it is to be there, but the problem is where to place the apostrophe. At least, that was my reasoning. Does that help?
Jocelyn Ryder-Smith wrote:
Q: Thank you for your web site explanation about use of the apostrophe. As I understand it, sometimes rules change because of common usage - even if strictly incorrect according to 'the rules'. You may not agree here, but I wonder if you think it has become common usage and therefore acceptable to write, for instance: "...in the early 1900's........" ? Does this look correct, even if not correct within the 'rules'? Can it be said that both forms, due to common usage, are now acceptable? I am already guessing your view on this!
With very good wishes
A: It is true that language is fluid and ever changing. The case of 1900's has arisen though through ignorance and people who don't know the rules think that putting in the apostrophe somehow makes it look right. It doesn't. As with CD's, DVD's and the infamous greengrocer error of carrot's etc. it is wrong because it is they are plurals and nothing is missing.
I suspect you guessed my view correctly.
R: Thank you for going to the trouble of replying. I am inclined to accept your view, that common usage does not make 1900's correct - and as you say, I did guess your views correctly!
With very good wishes.
David Case wrote:
Q: Why is won't the contraction for will not, and not willn't? This is a common mistake I've had students make when learning contractions.
Thanks, Alex Stanier, UK, wrote:
Q: Thank you for your informative website, I have been known to struggle with the odd apostrophe S so I like the simple rule and delight in the historical background. I do however note one erroneous example that I am sure must have been drawn to your attention previously, namely that of won't. As a contraction of will not, this seems to contradict the golden rule presumably because willn't is an abomination?!
I would be interested on your view.
A: Some people argue that it's a corruption caused by speech patterns. Saying /willn't/ quickly over again tends to blur into /won't/.
A more historical approach goes back to the roots of English in Germanic language. The modern German verb for will is wollen, and it is argued the contraction dates back to when /will not/ would have been more akin to /woll not/
No language follows all of its rules all the time, so perhaps it's just one of those quirks. I favour the /wollen/ theory.
R: Thank you for the info. Both make sense. I'll probably share both possibilities with future students.
Steve Gamblin wrote:
Q: Thank you very much for your excellent piece on the apostrophe.
I never seem to have any trouble with apostrophes, except in one important case. I have a very small one-man business producing handmade coat racks (www.hookedonhooks.co.uk).
When writing blogs and descriptions of my products, I suddenly find myself confused and sweating over the correct use of the apostrophe when using the name of my business.
For example, I often write Hooked on Hooks' website, or Hooked on Hooks' enquiries. But are these correct?
If I have read your instructions correctly, shouldn't I be writing, Hooked on Hooks's website, and Hooked on Hooks's enquiries?
Today in the news I saw the headline, Women Bishops Vote....Shouldn't this be Women Bishop's Vote.
Sorry, I am probably being quite thick.
But can you put me out of my misery?
A: The first thing is that "Hooked on Hooks" is a business name and not an ordinary noun. Proper nouns such as that often don't obey the rules; the supermarket Morrisons is an obvious case.
If you follow the rule exactly, then you should indeed be writing, Hooked on Hooks's website, and Hooked on Hooks's enquiries. But I think there's a bit of latitude here and nobody is to worry too much if you omit the final /s/ after the apostrophe. That is indeed more common in American English than here. Or you could avoid it by rephrasing your sentence by saying /our website/ or /Hooked on Hooks has a comprehensive website which says.../ etc.
As for the Women Bishops, in a sense the same thing applies. After all, it was not a Women Bishops' vote because there aren't any (yet) to vote, so it was about Women Bishops rather than of women Bishops.
R: Thank you very much for your prompt reply.
I'm glad to know that my apostrophes are on track. I once worked with a lot of American English texts, helping to confuse the issue.
Very many thanks again.
Joanne Hayman wrote:
Q: I wonder if you can help me? I make personalised bags, pencil cases etc. I have been asked to do the following. I normally have HANDS OFF first then the name as they are in possession of the pencils underneath, but have been asked to position the writing this way round. It is still the possession of but only presuming it is the item.
Hope that makes sense and any comments or advice would be appreciated.
Miss White's pencils
Miss White's -
Q: I hope you are well. I have a query on a word that is bugging me......
Obviously, kid's means the one child's - The kid's bike was green - the one child has a green bike.
The kids' all wore green coats - all of the children, plural, had green coats.
But when would I use kids without any apostrophe, and what would this mean?
Thanks so much in advance for your help!
A: In your example, /The kids all wore green coats/ no apostrophe is required. It is simply the plural of /kid/. After all, would you write. /The children's all wore green coats/?? No, it's simply /The children all wore green coats./ The plural of /child/.
I hope this helps.
R: It does help - thank you. So would I ever write kids'?
The kids' coats were all green
The kids all wore green coats ...?
I think I've got it right!
A: Yes. :-)
R: Thanks Patrick!
Kirsten Kelly wrote:
Q: I have this sentence:
What could be more embarrassing that forgetting one of our valued customer's birthdays.
Because I used one would customer's be like that?
Or should it be like this? Customers'?
A: Well, with luck you've forgotten only one birthday, of one customer. So the apostrophe before the /s/ is correct.
R: Thanks, you are the best!
Matthias Feinäugle wrote:
Q: I am struggling with the apostrophe and wonder how to deal in the following case. I want to describe the dimensions of a device, so do I say:
'10s of metres long' or '10's of metres long'.
Also, do I say 'in the 1990's' or 'in the 1990s'?
Thanks for your help,
A: An apostrophe is not necessary in either case. Nothing is missing, they are plurals. Look at the sidebar about CDs on the possessives page. The same applies. 10s of metres. 1990s
R: I would have just thought so, but thanks for the confirmation. It just looked a bit weird together with a numeric.
Barb Froman wrote:
Q: I'm looking everywhere for a punctuation rule, Perhaps you've come across on which would govern the following situation:
The sentence in question: He pointed at the blackberry vines. "Start hackin'."
Most guidebooks indicate to put the punctuation INSIDE the quotation marks like so: "Start hackin.' "
But in this case, the single marker is an apostrophe indicating a missing letter, not a single quote mark.
It seems more logical to me to keep the "word+apostrophe" together.
Yes, I know I could rewrite the sentence, but I write country, and this comes up a lot, so I might as well search for a definitive answer.
Have you discovered a rule to cover this example?
Thanks if you have time to answer this. I appreciate it.
A: You are right. I'm not sure what guidebooks you refer to, but ignore that, at least. The apostrophe goes where the missing letter is. To put it after the full stop is nonsense.
So go with:
He pointed at the blackberry vines. "Start hackin'."
I hope this helps.
R: Thanks for the reply. I'll spread the word.
Amy Winters wrote:
Q: Hello! I could really use your help/expertise! I am working on a golf tournament logo that will also be used for the trophy cup. The event is a fundraiser for a reading clinic.
Here are the options:
Al Arnold Reader's Cup
Al Arnold Readers' Cup
Al Arnold Readers Cup
I had the first one and then started to think that it was not correct because the trophy will go to a team of 4 players. Then I thought, but it isn't the golfers who are the readers it is the students at the reading clinic that the event is for. So now I am thinking it really could be any of the above and is really subjective. So confused!!!! Is there one that is correct or seems more correct to you?
A: If it's a cup in aid of the readers at the clinic, then I think number two would be the best.
R: Wow!!! Can you be a little faster next time lol!!!! ;-) Thanks VERY much for the response!!!
Robert Davill wrote:
Q: I've found your guide to be incredibly helpful I just have a couple of questions.
Take a noun ending in 's' and you want a situation where there is more than one. So say there were two people called James who owned one house (unlikely I know) but would it be James's house? To my understanding that would read exactly the same as if it were one person called James who owns a house.
Another thing would be around the city of Leeds. I frequently read articles about my team Leeds United where it will read "Leeds' hopes of winning...." I would assume this should read "Leeds's hopes of winning..." But could it be argued that because they are referring to Leeds as a team this would be correct? Obviously if you were referring to the team as singular then "Leeds's" would apply.
A: Both your problems revolve around proper nouns. Unfortunately, proper nouns often fail to adhere to the rules and act in an irregular manner. I suppose in the case of multiple Jameses. then Jameses' would fit, but it looks ugly. As for Leeds, I agree with you. (Except for 1973!)
Usually in these cases when this had to be written, it's best to rephrase to avoid the problem.
R: Thanks for your response, damn those proper nouns! I agree, it may just be easier to rephrase in this instance. At least I can still shake my head and tut knowing that the Yorkshire Evening Post writers are still (slightly) illiterate!
Carlie Pettit wrote:
Q: I would really like some speedy help with the following words - they have driven me crazy, I can't find anything online to help, apart from this email address.
Do the following words need an apostrophe, if so, where does the apostrophe sit:
I would really appreciate a response, am hoping this email is real and not spam.
A: This all depends on the context. Are they plurals or possessives?
Q: Plurals - I think - what's possessive?
A: Plurals mean more than one. Possessives are when something 'belongs'.
Q: Players - Tennis players
Wives - the wives of tennis players
Championships - Tennis championships
Hellos - two people sharing a hello
tummies - general reference
weeks - someone's birthday in a few weeks time
A: All are plurals. None need an apostrophe
R: Thanks Patrick - much appreciated
Angela Murphy wrote:
Q: May I ask which version is correct?
My daughter received homework which she needed to proof-read and correct, and it read as:
Should it be everyones' knees as it is a possessive plural?
Thank you kindly for your assistance.
A: Common sense tells you that /everyone/ is plural because it means lots of people. But in fact the clue is in the /one/ part and it is singular, as /every one/. One says "Everyone is going to the ball", not "Everyone are going to the ball."
So in fact your daughter was correct, as is /Everyone's knees/.
I hope this helps.
Sandra G Champion wrote:
Q: Hi I came across your website and I am still a little confused.
If I am writing "The Specialists tone." Do I have to use an apostrophe "s" "Specialist's" tone?
A: Yes, but where depends on how many specialists.
Q: Thank you for your quick response.
If I am only speaking of one Specialist, do I still have to use the apostrophe "s"?
Sorry I hate apostrophes.
I appreciate your time.
A: Yes. Before the s
Philip Bowler wrote:
Q: This is from a subscribed-to calendar in Apple's Calendar (January 25th):
Robert Burn's Night
A: I wonder who Robert Burn is? :-)
R: Indeed. Jan 25th has something to do with eating haggi's, doesn't it?
I've just noticed that the same calendar has:
"Guy Fawkes Night"
"St Andrews Day"
I suppose we shouldn't be surprised at that!
A: Better forward them a link to the website!
Dawn Smith wrote:
Q: Hiya, I hope you can help.
At school I was never much good at English, but as I have got older I seem to better at it. That is until I receive my sons homework book to discover that I have got last weeks wrong. I have included (examples) which I have copied from my sons homework book, I would be grateful if you could look at it and send me your explanations on where the apostrophe should be and why. This is just so I am clear in my mind. The school asks you to help your child by doing their homework alongside them but if I get it wrong where is that type of help going to get them.
This is Janes cat.
The man stole the ladies handbags.
The womens meeting began at eight
Theyve got soft feathers.
The cars wheels cant fall off.
Marks hair wasnt wet.
Class fours classroom was very tidy.
The princess grand ball was on Saturday.
A: Here's my take on it:
This is Janes cat.
This is Jane's cat.
This is a simple possessive, like /the boy's coat/ on the website.
The man stole the ladies handbags.
The man stole the ladies' handbags.
We know that more than one lady has lost her handbag because /ladies/ is the plural. So apply the rule; ladieses = ladies'
The womens meeting began at eight
The women's meeting began at eight.
We know that more than one woman is at the meeting because /women/ is the plural. So apply the rule; womenes = women's
Theyve got soft feathers.
They've got soft feathers.
This is a contraction of They have, so apply the rule, where letters are missing, insert the apostrophe.
The cars wheels cant fall off.
The car's wheels can't fall off.
Let's deal with can't first. It is a contraction of cannot, so apply the rule, where letters are missing, insert the apostrophe.
The car bit is more problematic. It depends whether we are talking of one car or many cars. If it's one car, then it's a simple possessive like /the boy's coat/ on the website.
If we are talking about several cars, then the rule would indicate cars - carses - cars'
This also shows why the apostrophe can be important! Your child should ask the teacher whether this refers to one car or several.
Marks hair wasnt wet.
Mark's hair wasn't wet.
Mark's is a simple possessive (Markes = Mark's)
Wasn't is a contraction of was not. /o/ is missing, insert apostrophe, Remember spaces don't count because there is nothing there to go missing - it's a space!
Class fours classroom was very tidy.
Class four's classroom was very tidy.
They're trying to catch you with this one, but treat /Class four/ as a single noun, and it becomes a simple possessive.
The princess grand ball was on Saturday.
As it stands, no change is required, the word princess simply is an adjective describing the ball. If it is meant to be the Princess's grand ball, then the apostrophe is as shown, Don't let the fact that the word ends in /s/ distract you. Princesses = Princess's.
Hope this helps
R: This is quite eye opening, because according to your description, the person who corrected my sons homework was wrong four times (me two times).
Thank you for your help.
Kylie Harvey wrote:
Q: Thanks for the info on your website.
I have one question for you. Why would I use an apostrophe for this statement:
This is Bay Town's first and only sandwich shop.
I am trying to explain it to my 9 yr old.
Thanks for any help
A: Because it's a sandwich shop belonging to Bay Town?
Actually it's more complicated than that, and involves knowing that in this sentence Bay Town is in the genitive case, but not many nine year olds would appreciate starting in grammatical case structure.
R: Thanks so much for all yr help. I really appreciate it.
Jon Morgan wrote:
Q: Thanks you for helpful notes on using an apostrophe using one rule.
I came across your site using Google search.
The query I have has gone around several people who know the English language well, but yet their answer always comes back - not really sure, ambiguous.
On occasion, we hold a meeting for those women who are married to a pastor. The meeting is called "the Pastors Wives Conference". However, it was noted that this could mean a pastor had several wives ... and as you may imagine the humour this has produced!
Many heads have been scratched over this, and I hope you can help.
A: There is more than one Pastor and more than one wife. So applying the rule (as in the boys and their coats) you arrive at
The Pastors' Wives' Conference.
I hope this helps.
Karen Wendorf wrote:
Q: I just saw your site and had an inquiry or two. I was researching because I've been debating with my sister about her misuse of apostrophes. Funnily enough she just moved to Korea for the year to teach English, but then I guess it isn't as if she's teaching a college English course in a native English speaking country. Anyhow, I consider her to be of extremely above average intelligence (albeit kind of a bull-headed jerk) so it's of extra concern for me.
I've seen her make a few mistakes in recent times, even misusing your/you're and then/than occasionally, and the other day when I called her on it she adamantly argued with me professing that she's correct and I'm wrong though I was trying to explain that there may be some modern exception to such things but only because of the growing universal ignorance and she should be above condoning or contributing to that. Well the other day she used apostrophes to signify letters and also even used them to say "hi's and hello's".
I tried to tell her that it's silly and she should have more faith in her readers and not jump on this trainwreck bandwagon. We know the English language is very complex and we're all familiar with and competent at comprehending homographs and all the other nuances of this language. So why be so silly? It's also my understanding of course, as your page states, that if we are to differentiate something like this the apostrophe is not the proper tool to use.
Well, I have a tendency to ramble and I guess I posed my inquiry long ago so I will wrap it up here.
I've seen a lot of pages that are saying this is ok, even the rules for writers text book for school I have. I really have not researched the matter extensively but I'm pretty sure that the apostrophe was never (ab)used like this years ago.
From your page it seems that is your stance as well, but I didn't actually see anything about the particular cases I've presented here so I would love your official word on the matter.
There is one other concern I have, about your page. I know too many people erroneously use an apostrophe when speaking of a decade such as "the 80's", but what about at the beginning of said date? '09 for instance as 2009. You said only use an apostrophe when letters are missing. So I am wondering if '09 is still correct and the rule just doesn't translate to numerals because numerals consist of letters/words to begin with and essentially they are being omitted?
All right, that is it, thank you for your time and your page, very nice!
A: She is using apostrophes in plurals which is simply wrong. As for using them for missing numbers, I think that too is perfectly legitimate.
R: Thank you. I personally guess I would just use regular letters and have faith in my readers.
Louise Hogarth wrote:
Q: I had to contact you. I love your teaching method.
I am a teaching assistant in KS2 and I am 'trying' to teach an intervention group sentence structure. This has been invaluable to me.
When you go to college to train for a TA position they don't (missing letter) teach you things like this, many of us TA's (fingers crossed because I'm not sure) come into the job later in life, and have been out of education for many years (plural). My memory, quite frankly, isn't (missing letter) that good! Much of what I learnt at school has faded into a dim and distant memory.
Your method is outstanding. I am now confident enough to pass on this information to my students.
I hope my use of apostrophes (plural) in this e-mail are up to scratch.... :-)
Thank you for clarifying 'The Dreaded Apostrophe' for me
A: Only one mistake. TA's? What's missing? Answer = nothing, so TAs.
Sima Madanipour wrote:
Q: I was wondering whether you could help me. I'm currently writing my masters dissertation and I am getting so confused. I've had a read of your website and it has helped clarify some things, however, I am still struggling to understand how to use apostrophes particularly when possessives are concerned.
The title of my dissertation is:
Opinions on using Facebook as a Method of Communication between YOT Practitioners and Young Offenders
I have no idea whether "YOT Practitioners" should have an apostrophe or "Young Offenders" should have one? I'm guessing "opinions" doesn't need one.
I have a number of graphs and where my titles state "young offenders opinions on...." again I don't know where the apostrophe goes. It's not going to look good if my front cover with the title has apostrophes in all the wrong places.
Any help would be much appreciated. So confused!
A: The title does not require any apostrophes because they are all plural nouns. In your graph titles, the apostrophe is required because they are the opinions of a young offender, or of several young offenders. Assuming we are talking about several. then it should come after the word /young offenders' opinions/
R: That's really helpful. Thanks so much for your prompt reply. :)
Marilyn Nagli wrote:
Q: I am very good at apostrophes normally, but I have a mental block on this one:
"The school has recently celebrated its tercentenary," I think is correct, but I keep saying to myself: "the tercentenary of it," so it must need an apostrophe.
Would you please be kind enough to confirm whether or not my first thought is correct.
A: People are often confused about possessive pronouns. Pronouns are words used instead of a noun. He instead of John, she instead of Sally, it instead of the car etc. Each of these pronouns also has a genitive form denoting possession, his, hers and its.
This last one often causes people problems, asking why doesn't its have an apostrophe when it shows possession, but it does when it's a contraction of it is? But now we know that one is a contraction and the other a possessive pronoun that already is in the genitive case.
It's is short for it is or it has as you see in the section on cntractions.. Its means belonging to it, as in "It's probably spun off its neck by now". If you are uncertain which to use, say it in full, e.g. "The world spins on it is axis" is plainly silly, so one should use its rather than it's.
R: Thank you so much.
Q: Another tricky one for you Patrick, if you don't mind, please.
"including the public relations profile."
If I were writing, "including the marketing profile," I wouldn't put an apostrophe after "marketing." Public Relations is an entity in itself, and is not ever Public Relation, it's always plural.
Would you put an apostrophe after the "s?" Do you need an apostrophe in public relations profile? I don't think you do.
A: I agree. The term /public relations/ here is used as an adjective to describe the profile. It's not possessive.
Matt Longmore wrote:
Q: I wonder if you would mind answering a question? My wife and I cannot agree on the use of an apostrophe.
On the channel five programme ' Neighbours ' the coffee house is called ' Charlie's.' Just a singular name, not Charlie's coffee house.
My wife says that the apostrophe is in the right place because it is stating that the coffee house belongs to just one ' Charlie,' and it is his coffee house. I am unsure about this as I think the name should not have an apostrophe as it does not infer or signify by ownership directly after the name.
A: Is Neighbours still going?
Far be it from me to come between man and wife but I agree with your wife. Assuming this is written above the door or similar, I think it does infer that the premises on which the sign appears belongs to Charlie.
I hope she won't crow for too long. :-)
R: Thanks for that, the grammar school girl wins. Neighbours is still going,
Chantal Devenport wrote:
Q: Thank you for your wonderful on line explanation but being old I am easily confused, so please help!
I want to write a sign that says 'Christmas at the Devenports'. Should it read 'Christmas at the Devenport's or just 'Christmas at the Devenports' or Christmas at the Devenports's?
And, if the surname ends in 's', for example Evans, would it read Christmas at the Evans's?
Please let me know if you have time,
Kind regards your biggest fan, Chantal
A: I would go with / Christmas at the Devenports / where you are using the family name as a simple plural, meaning more than Devenport. If you were to add the house, then it would become a possessive and you would need / Christmas at the Devenports' house /
Proper nouns, names of people etc, are always a problem. In your latter example, I would opt for / Christmas at the Evans's / in the mainly because that's how most people would say it as well.
R: Thank you! You are an angel.
John Davies wrote:
Q: I have been looking at a sentence I wrote...'The Campbells had a home in Wimbledon.' Am I correct in saying it should be Campbells'...as the sentence is referring to a whole family owning the home!
Regards and thanks,
A: No. What you wrote is correct. /The Campbells/ is a plural noun which is the subject of the sentence and is in the nominative case, not genitive. The fact that the sentence later refers to some kind of ownership is irrelevant. The sentence might have continued /The Campbells went on holiday together./ Grammatically the role of /The Campbells/ is the same.
R: Hi Patrick and thanks! I have been looking at that sentence for what seems like weeks and thinking...it's right, it's wrong, it's right!
Fiona Halliday wrote:
Q: I have been reading your site to (hopefully) finally straighten out my idiotic incomprehension with regards to apostrophes.
I am working on some exercises from somewhere else, which involve putting apostrophes in the correct place; using the Cassius's Book theory I'm pretty sure this sentence should read:
Moses's basket was hidden by the reeds.
However, the answer is apparently Moses' basket was hidden by the reeds.
Could you explain this to me? I figured as his name is Moses, not Mose, it would be the same as the Cassius example. Sorry for being stupid, hope you can help!
A: I think this confusion comes partly from the familiarity of the term 'Moses basket' which is type of basket rather than a basket belonging to him.
For consistency I would still go for Moses's basket, although there is a (mainly American) school of thought that shuns the second /s/ and would write /Cassius' book/
Sorry I can't be more definitive, but that's a living language for you!
R: Thanks Patrick.
The exercises I'm working on are actually from a proof-reading course I'm doing. Your answer was really helpful though
Q: My name's Emily and I've always been a bit stuck when it comes to apostrophes. (I'm dyslexic)
I have to take a literacy test soon and wanted to know once and for all how to use apostrophes. I got an example question about where to place the missing apostrophe which is:
"Swimmers belongings must not be left at the poolside."
What I'm confused about is if the apostrophe goes before or after the "s" because it is obviously talking about more than one swimmer.
Please get back to me as soon as possible.
A: Read again the page on possessives, and think about "lots of boys and their coats" in relation to lots of swimmers and their belongings. Let me know what you think.
Q: So you're saying that the sentence should be:
"Swimmers' belongings must not be left at the poolside." ?
I showed this to my dad earlier and he couldn't get it either (he's a maths geek - I find people are either very good at maths but not English or vice versa. Have you ever noticed that? Or is that just me?)
A: You have it correct. :)
R: Thank you very much for your help! Your website is really good, I'll recommend it to anyone if they ever get stuck too.
A: Please do. Glad it helped
Mandy Wilde wrote:
Q: I wonder if you could help me with an invite I'm sending.
It reads, Mandy and Ricky present
A Wilde Summer's Ball
Enjoy a wonderful summers evening e.t.c e.t.c
Could you please settle a dispute over whether both 'Summer's' have
Apostrophe's or just one.
A: In your case, both need the apostrophe, before the s.
Is there a reason for spelling wild with an e on the end? unless it's your surname of course.
Also etcetera is shortened to just etc. with no full stops between the letters.
Hope this helps, and I hope we get a summer to have a ball in!
R: Hi Patrick,
Thank you so much for replying.
Of course I was right and my husband was wrong.
Wilde is our surname.
A: I learned to accept that many years ago - the wife is always right!
Alan Thomas wrote:
Q: Dear 'Dreaded'
I would be grateful if you would cast some light on the following play title.
An evening with the Ponsonby-Smythe's OR An evening with the Ponsonby-Smythes
I believe it is correct in the latter since it is plural. Would you like to confirm one way or the other? I am producing a poster to advertise the play.
You are right, the latter is correct, it is simply a plural.
Hope this helps.
Sam Alcock wrote:
Q: So with people's names how does the rule apply?
I thought I'd drop by with ..... card
A: Just apply the rule. There is only one Peter so it is Peter's card.
I hope this helps.
Glenn Matthews wrote:
Q: Can you help please
Where does the apostrophe go in
A: It doesn't. :)
R: Thank you for your swift reply.
Ellie Springer wrote:
Q: I was wondering if you could help me please, I have read the information regarding using apostrophes however I am still confused!
I am writing an assignment and have used the sentence "Roses mobility is reduced due to her physical impairment."
Does "Roses" need an apostrophe as her mobility belongs to her?
Any help would be appreciated, many, many thanks, Ellie.
Jugathambal Akoojee wrote:
Q: Thank you for a wonderful article on the use of the apostrophe.
My journey is just beginning. Teaching English is quite a different story than just speaking English.
I am sure that the more I practice these exercises the better I will get at it.
Could you please advise on the following. I need to explain the reason for this choice. (Grade 3)
Children were requested to come up with different types of Festivals that they would like to have.
The following emerged:
Your advice would be sincerely appreciated.
A: It all depends on how many teachers and how many dogs. Assuming there are several teachers and several dogs, then I suggest /Teacher's Dogs Festival /.
By the way, practice is a noun. The verb is practise. :)
Q: Hi Patrick
Thank you so much for your prompt response and for the correction :)
Please forgive my confusion.
The examples I provided were meant as two separate items.
Eg. Teacher Festival Or Dog Festival
I think that A Dog Festival is correct because it describes what is central to this festival (dogs). There is no indication of possession but is purely descriptive.
I am not so sure about the Teacher/s Festival So my choice would be The Teachers Festival as this would indicate that this festival is being enjoyed by the teachers alone.
Would I be correct?
Truthfully I am thoroughly confused.
We have Children's Festival (with an apostrophe) but a Lantern Festival.
Please help me to understand why one is acceptable and the others not.
The more I read about this the more confused I become. I am afraid that I would confuse the children because I am not 100% clear about this.
Thanks once again.
A: It's an interesting area. I think it depends on whether the festival is about something or for someone.
The Dog Festival or a Book Festival is about dogs and books. A Children's Festival is for children. So when it comes to teachers, is the festival about them or for them?
R: Dear Patrick
Thank you most sincerely for your time and help.
This is such a great help.
Paul Darling wrote:
Q: I've just read your site and think it is excellent and will be rolling it out to my children!
I'm wondering whether you had a view on the position below which is causing quite a bit of debate at our office.
We have set up a framework of ten Contractors. In essence we set up the framework and the Contractors are classed as being "on the framework". The framework is called the Contractors Framework. Debate rages as to whether it should have an apostrophe after the "s" to read "Contractors' Framework" or whether it is simply "Contractors Framework" ? Does the issue hinge on who owns the framework ? Are there any rules on this as we set up the framework it can be argued it is ours but we as an organisation are not on the framework but did set it up and manage it. Therefore, is possession of the framework with the contractors suggesting that the apostrophe should come after the "s"?
We would be most grateful if you could provide us with your opinion?
A: Try not to take possession too literally. It is a framework for multiple contractors and so I would suggest /Contractors' Framework/. I hope this helps.
Marion Dunn wrote:
Q: Is the following correct? My husband is a signwriter and the word at the
start is a person's name ending in s, the kitchen is hers so is this ok?
Delores's delectable Kitchen
A: In my opinion your husband has it correct. :)
Fiona Slot wrote:
Q: Can you tell me what is correct here please Ladies Festival or Ladies' Festival and after dinner at the Ladies festival we will sing the Ladies Song (or Ladies' Song).
A: It's a festival for ladies and a song for ladies. Ladies is already a plural noun so following the "Chaucer" rule, you end up with
Ladies' Festival where after dinner you will sing the Ladies' Song.
Andy Banbery wrote:
Q: Thanks for posting the article. Its great really simple and inspiring. I've read and understood most of it, but can't get my head around the following. ....
The changing room for boys
The boys changing room
The boys' changing room??
It doesn't belong to the boys.
The teacher at my sons school seems to suggest that it should be
The boy's changing room. But I can't see that that is correct.
The other one was,
The football team for girls.....
The girls football team or
The girls' football team?
Any help appreciated.
A: No, but it's a changing room for boys. Don't take 'possession' too literally. The teacher is only correct if it is a changing room for just one boy. Unlikely. Change schools if that's their standard.
/Boys' changing room./
A team by definition implies more than one girl. /girls' football team./
And yours does not require the apostrophe, it's already a possessive pronoun.
Hope this helps. :)
R: Many thanks Patrick.
That's most helpful.
It seems that the teacher wishes an apostrophe to be placed before the last s, which is why I was concerned.
Your explanation makes it clear. Thank you.
The apostrophe on your's was a joke by the way.
I thought you may pick me up on it.
Andrea Shaw wrote:
Q: Does this phrase need an apostrophe?
"I need access to the companies own data."
Kind regards, Andrea
A: One company or several?
If it's one company then the correct version is:
I need access to the company's own data.
If several companies, then it's:
I need access to the companies' own data.
I hope this is helpful
Philip Lee (WTP) wrote:
Q: Can you advise how to insert apostrophe to this sentence - "I received JTC's Benjamin's comments" or should it be "I received JTC Benjamin's comments" Perhaps, both sentences are wrong.
Looking forward to your response.
A: It's hard to advise you because I don't understand the context. Is this about someone called JTC Benjamin? Or is JTC separate in some way from Benjamin?
Q: Hi Patrick
Apologies. Like to clarify that Benjamin is someone from a company called JTC.
A: Strictly according to grammar, your first version is correct. But I think it would be better to reword the sentence completely to avoid the double apostrophe. "I have received the comments from Benjamin at JTC." Would that do?
R: Hi Patrick
Thanks very much for your response and advice.
Myles Martin wrote:
Q: Hi, this is crazy because I'm in university, can't believe I am getting confused over this.
I want to say
"The companys marketing strategy"
As in one company with one strategy
And what would it be if it was lots of companys strategies
A: One company's strategy
Two companies' strategies
Catherine Terris wrote:
Q: My son is called Oliver Terris
He wants his iPod Engraved with - Oliver T's
Now should it be Oliver T's - i.e. T's short for Terris or Oliver Ts' short for Terris , but belongs to Oliver T ? Ouch my brain hurts!
A: It's the abbreviation of the surname that's causing your problems. The best bet would be /Oliver T's/ but then that begs the question, Oliver T's what?
As it his iPod, why not just have /Oliver T/ ? After all, then it's pretty obvious it's his. Or even Oliver Terris - more chance of getting it back if it's lost.
R: Hello Patrick ,
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.
I think we will go with Oliver Terris.
Rodney Stoneman wrote:
Seniors' Section is used in the Seniors' Section Rules of my club and that I believe to be correct. Similar for Seniors' Captain etc. However, we have the Current Senior's Captain and three previous Senior's Captains and I believe this use to be incorrect because it is his title and therefore does not require an apostrophe. Advice welcome!
A: Assuming there is more than one senior, all occurrences should have the apostrophe after the s.
R: Many thanks.
Chuck Elliott wrote:
I read your pages, many thanks for posting them, but am still unclear on my particular issue
There are several artists, only one group. In your boy's coat example there are many boys with many coats, or one boy with one coat, but not as here, many boys with one coat! So as far as I can see, my example is subtly different from the examples on your pages.
My guess would be artists'
Can you advise!
Many thanks - Chuck
A: Your guess is correct because it is a group for more than one artist. Presumably!
R: Thanks Patrick
Thomas Ramsey wrote:
Q: Great explanation. Very clear, loved the history. I always thought I was pretty good with grammar/punctuation but realised recently I was usually incorrect when using the possessive apostrophe with 'it'. I thought your explanation of the linguistic history of apostrophes was great but am left with one question. When saying, for example, "The world spins on its axis", wouldn't the 'it' become 'ites', then shortened to 'it's'?
In hope of an explanation,
A: No, because /its/ is a possessive pronoun and is already in the genitive case, like /his/, /hers/ or /my/ etc.
R: I understand. Thanks for taking the time.
Martin Watson wrote:
Q: Read the website - but I have a question.
Which is correct - maths or math's?
I've never seen the latter in common use.......but someone did use it recently, and someone else told them that it was incorrect
A: Of course /maths/ or just /math/ as the Americans have it, is an abbreviation of mathematics, so one could argue that /ematic/ is missing so there is a need for an apostrophe. However one has to take common sense into account as well as common usage. Maths or Math is now so widely used as to be words in their own right and I therefore suggest no apostrophe is required and that 'someone' was correct.
R: The exception to the rule!
Thanks for the reply.
Dave Selin wrote:
Q: Would it be correct to say Joshua' s school. When Joshua does not posses the school, but is part of it?
I look forward to your thoughts.
A: Please don't take /possession/ too literally. He doesn't have to own the school to be a part of it, for it to be 'his' school. /Joshua's school/ is correct.
Alan Curtis wrote:
Q: Just an inquiry.
Is the street name King's Road correct with the apostrophe in?
A: Assuming that like most, it was named for one king in particular at that time, then yes, it's correct.
R: OK Patrick.
Dan Sinclair wrote:
Q: Firstly, great website, thanks for the help! Secondly I'm stuck with a singular noun that ends in X. If something belonged to said noun, where would the dreaded apostrophe go?
A hammer that belongs to a toolbox.
The toolbox's hammer - this looks correct to me, but nothing is missing...
The toolboxes' hammer - this looks incorrect to me, but though I would double check!
Thanks in advance.
A: Just follow the rule.
box - Pretend Chaucer = boxes Drop the e = box's
Patrick Gates wrote:
Q: Please help me. My 10 year old has criticised my use of the apostrophe! I commented on something I read in today's paper. Who is correct?
A: I assume that you child says there should be no apostrophe in your use of /today's/.
But I think you are right. It is the newspaper of today and is therefore a possessive and /today's/ is correct.
===Sarah C Mahon wrote:
Betty Odoherty wrote:
Q: Having consulted your site on the dreaded apostrophe I feel you may be the one to help with the following -
Can you please advise if there should be an apostrophe in the following sentence -
'This was a significant relationship of five years' duration'. It this correct or should it be written without the apostrophe? Thank you for taking the time to read this and hopefully you can clarify for me.
A: The third question on the Q&A section deals with this. You're not the first to be puzzled by it!
R: Patrick, Thank you so much for your prompt reply. Now I can concentrate my mind elsewhere as it has been a topic of hot debate within the family for the past few days.
Thanks again for taking time to get back to me.
Danielle Waterfall wrote:
I was just on your website and was wondering if you could help me please, could you advise me if it is loves, love's or loves' as in mummy loves you. I'm pretty sure its loves but I'm not certain, please can you help me?
I look forward to hearing from you in due course, many thanks.
A: It is simply the second person form of the verb 'to love'. So no apostrophe is needed.
Hayley Terry wrote:
Q: Please can you clear up a debate and explain which way the apostrophe faces when numbers are missing. For example;
August 2012 = Aug '12 or August '12.
At the moment we have been using the apostrophe before the 12 so it is facing the 12, but now we are under the impression that it should be facing away.
I hope you can help,
A: In the font you have chosen, the apostrophe appears symmetrical so it doesn't matter. I would suggest that with another font such as Times Roman you use the right handed version, i.e. a "9" rather than a "6".
R: I see what you mean. At first glance I wondered why you'd placed a 9 and 6 inside speech marks, but now see that you are showing me the shape of the apostrophe. Brilliant thank you for your help, I shall revert this back to the office.
Ian Denby-Jones wrote:
Q: Which is correct
ONE THINKS AGAIN
ONE THINK'S AGAIN
A: The first one. It is neither a contraction nor possession. Verbs cannot possess.
R: Thank you Patrick for such a fast response.
Ian Denby-Jones wrote:
Q: Hi Patrick,
Would either of the following to statements require an apostrophe?
The 70s Again
A: I don't know the context but from what I have neither needs an apostrophe. Both appear to be simply plurals.
R: Thank you once again
Chris Pitches wrote:
Q: Sorry to bother you, but I have read and re-read your pages but still need some clarification and would appreciate your advice. I run a small B&B by the sea in Bude, North Cornwall. As the only B&B in Bude by the sea, am I
"Bude's only B&B by the sea" or
"Budes' only B&B by the sea" ?
Or is there no apostrophe at all??
I think it's the former but am never sure. I must be one of the 10% that never quite got it!!
A: The first one is correct. There's only one Bude!
Barry Lucas wrote:
Q: Thanks for a very informative web page. As a sixty six year old it solved a couple of old questions. However one I have is the use of apostrophe in the following . . . ." . . . .this years' Seniors Invitational...." Is that right?
A: I am not quite sure what an 'invitational' is. But my best guess would be that that the correct version would be /this year's Seniors' Invitational/.
The apostrophe is placed before the /s/ in /year's/ because we only have one year at a time, and it appears we are discussing just one Invitational. And unless it's for just one rather lonely Senior it's an Invitational for several Seniors, hence the apostrophe is placed after the /s/ there.
I hope this helps.
R: Thanks very much - I thought I was being clever - got it wrong again!
Norman Langridge wrote:
Q: Dear Sir,
I am a proof reader for an author of railway books and at times I feel that World War Three has broken out by virtue of his refusal to accept some of my corrections. The latest were sentences that contained references to The Crossing Keepers Hut and to the Butchers Shop. I had corrected these to The Crossing Keeper's Hut and to the Butcher's shop. In both cases I had assumed that the hut and the shop related to just one person and not two or more when the apostrophe would have followed the letter S. In both cases my correction were rejected by his simple statement of "Not now". He maintains that in the modern world we don't use the apostrophe in these words any more, but I feel he is wrong.
What are your views please?
Railway trains usually have a person in charge of the train called a guard. They usually have a separate section of the train in which they sit and this is usually referred to as the Guards Van, or should it be Guard's Van? Is this one of those instances where there is an exception to the rule and the word Guard has become adjectival?
You might like to also comment on another difference of opinion between us although not relating to apostrophes, one that he will just not budge on, and that is the word NOR. He states that it old fashioned and that no one uses it any more. I would certainly agree that it is not used as often as it should, but would hardly agree that it is old fashioned as it has a totally different meaning to OR. He states that "The station had no goods or parcels office." To me, this indicates that it was missing one of them, but he is unsure of which one as the use of the word OR gives a choice. I say it should be "The station had no goods nor parcels office" which clearly indicates that both were absent, but he won't have it. If you see a notice that states "No Cycling nor Horse Riding" then you know that both are banned, but if the notice reads "No Cycling or Horse Riding" then this gives one a choice of which one not to do. Obviously this is not what the Council who put up the notice intended, but it is the true interpretation and would certainly make a useful legal argument should you ever find yourself in a court of law.
I look forward very much to your views on the apostrophe, or lack of with perhaps the bonus of your comments on NOR.
My best wishes,
A: All I can say is that I agree with you on every count. Stick to your guns!
R: Thanks Patrick, your support is much appreciated.
Poho Shyu wrote:
Q: I am starting a new business and consider multiple titles, can you tell me which one are correct:
David Learning Center
David's Learning Center
Mr D Learning Center
Mr D's Learning Center
A: It all depends on who David is. Is he the owner? If so you might prefer:
David's Learning Center
Mr D's Learning Center
Center is American English. In the UK and much of the English speaking world, it is Centre.
It depends where your business is
Gordon Bullock wrote:
Q: Good afternoon. Can you please tell me which is the correct grammar in the following two sentences , and why? They refer to a film.
1. The Dead Poets' Society 2. The Dead Poets Society
I say that it should be 1. as the society ' belongs ' to the Poets, even if they are dead.
If I am correct would the following sentence be correct, without the apostrophe ?
3. The Dead Poets Statue I suggest that the apostrophe isn't required as the statue ( if there is one) doesn't ' belong' to the Poets.
Your help would be greatly appreciated as I can't sleep properly because of worrying about the matter !
Thanks, Gordon Bullock.
A: It's a society about dead poets, and I am assuming we are talking about more than one poet. When discussing possession in terms of apostrophe usage, it is used rather loosely and does not require actual ownership but more a connection. The society doesn't belong to the poets, rather the use of the term poets here is adjectival, describing the society, so I suggest no apostrophe is required.
R: Thanks (no apostrophe required ) very much.
Gillian Harvey wrote:
Q: Hi there,
Thanks for your apostrophe tips - I still find it confusing today sometimes, as there are so many different styles out there that people use that you end up second-guessing what you were taught at school!
I have one question - I was writing something the other day about One Direction singer Harry Styles and I wanted to write 'Harry Styles's job'... but it just didn't look correct. However Harry is just one person, so it's singular, therefore based on your apostrophe tips I'm assuming this is correct rather than Harry Styles' job...?
If you could clear this up for me I'd appreciate it - me and one of my friends are having a dispute over this!
A: Opinions do differ on this one. Americans tend to prefer /Styles'/ but not all. Personally I like the consistency of /Styles's/.
There is an answer on a topic similar this in the Q&A to Eddie Murphy no less!
R: Brilliant, thanks for your help!
Olivia Orchowski wrote:
Q: Could you explain why "my family's keeper" is grammatically correct as opposed to "my families keeper"? My friends and I are in the middle of a heated argument because they believe my families keeper is correct, and that any grammar errors can be fixed by putting an apostrophe on the end of families'.
It's doing my head in!
A: It depends how many families you have. Assuming just one, then the word is /family/. Because the family possesses a keeper, the possessive is /family's keeper/.
If there are several families sharing the same keeper, then you would need /families' keeper/.
The section about the boy's coat is relevant.
I hope this helps.
Ian Taylor wrote:
Q: When sending a gift should I say from the taylors or from the taylor,s
A: It's only a plural meaning more than one Taylor. So /Taylors/ in this case.
Naomi Arnold, New Zealand wrote:
Q: Please help! In a weekly humour column, I lambasted a local store for advertising cardigans with the phrase "Cardi's". But then I got a call from a reader saying that we're completely wrong - you can happily use an apostrophe in words that are missing letters. He used the example of "isn't". But I am convinced he is wrong - the proper use would be "Cardies".
I have no idea. Can you help?
A: One could argue that that the /e/ is missing from /cardies/. Somewhat specious though. :)
It's an abbreviation of course which doesn't help, but I think your version, /cardies/ is correct. It's just a plural.
Hope this helps.
Gloria Prema, Saudi Arabia wrote:
Q: Hi, can you help with this? Regarding possessive pronouns, to say ..... its life, is correct. The possessive pronoun doesn't require an apostrophe, but to say Gloria's life does require an apostrophe, but it and Gloria both possess the life. So how can both be correct, does this not break the rule?
With best regards,
A: Its and lt's
People are often confused about possessive pronouns. Pronouns are words used instead of a noun. He instead of John, she instead of Sally, it instead of the car etc. Each of these pronouns also has a genitive form denoting possession, his, hers and its.
This last one often causes people problems, asking why doesn't its have an apostrophe when it shows possession, but it does when it's a contraction of it is? But now we know that one is a contraction and the other a possessive pronoun that already is in the genitive case.
It's is short for it is or it has as you see in the table in that section. Its means belonging to it, as in "It's probably spun off its neck by now". If you are uncertain which to use, say it in full, e.g. "The world spins on it is axis" is plainly silly, so one should use its rather than it's.
Christine Dillon wrote:
Q: changing family's lives
Changing families' lives
Thank you for your help.
A: Assuming it refers to more than one family, we start with the plural, /families/.
Then to make it possessive we add the genitive ending to get /familieses/
Next, drop the /es/ to leave us with the modern form of /families'/
R: Thank you so much - yes I hope to change more than one families' lives.
Mandel, Lynne J wrote:
Q: Good morning,
I'm wondering if you can answer this question...
Should an apostrophe be used below, after the S in Girls?
Girls Road Trip
(Should it read: Girls' Road Trip?)
A: It is the trip of more than one girl so
/Girls' Road Trip/ is correct.
R: Thank you for your prompt reply, Patrick.
Not that my friends will even notice or care, but I'm particular about my grammar and wanted to be sure it's correct.
Liz Odell, New Zealand wrote:
Q: I loved your page but couldn't find an answer to a particular query about the apostrophe. My sister works for a company called the ACC and she has been told by a co-worker that, when referring to ACC such as ACC's Policy or ACC's Office that you don't use an apostrophe (as I have just done). Her co-worker says it should just be written ACCs policy etc. Which is correct, please?
A: You and your sister are correct. The co-worker is mistaken.
R: Thank you for that :-)
Ray Owens wrote:
Q: My family name Owens presents all kinds of problems when the apostrophe is brought into play. The following is an extract from an email my sister sent me recently, reminiscing about disputes among us and other families during our school days:
I do remember sometime after another row between I think us (Owens'es with Collins'es) against Cassidys and Murrays from Castlenod.
I believe that my sister's errors occur only in the bracketed section which should read (Owens' with Collins') because we're referring to more than one Owens and more than one Collins.
Would you be kind enough to confirm/correct this for me.
A: Proper nouns - real names - are always problematic. There is a question from Eddie Murphy which touches on this on the Q&A section. I don't like /Owens'es/ but rather /Owens's/ which I feel is more consistent.
If that's how you would say it, write it that way.
Pauline Garlick wrote:
Q: Love that rule, seems to make absolute sense, but...
If a road sign says NO HGV'S is that to do with the missing letters, I can't believe it is.
A: The only explanation is that the signwriter hasn't visited the website!
Alan Vickerman wrote:
Q: Dear Sir.
Please will you place the apostrophe correctly in the following.
`Breaking of the Print Unions power` when there are more than one union involved.
Thanking you, Alan Vickerman
A: One union - union's
More than one - unions'
Julie Smith wrote:
Q: I see people asking you specific questions, so I hope this is acceptable. Q: 'company name' is still renowned for its advice process
Is it taken as the advice process of it (it being the company) so therefore it's
should it stay without the apostrophe, someone started quoting "his, her, its" which lost me.
I've just read your explanation for 3 months notice, I too put 3 months' notice (the notice of 3 months) so I am finding the more I am reading the more I am doubting the rules I was taught when at school.
Hoping you will be able to confirm. Thank You
A: It should remain as /its/. There is a section specifically devoted this on the section about contractions.
Florence Johnston wrote:
Q: I should be grateful if you would let me know the correct version of the following inscription which I intend to have printed on the headstone of my late husband.
LOVES LAST GIFT - REMEMBRANCE
I have seen it printed both with the apostrophe (love's) and without it (love). I do not want to make a mistake.
A: Firstly let me offer you my condolences over your loss. Of course you want it right.
In this case it is a possessive, the last gift of love, so /LOVE'S LAST GIFT/ would be correct.
R: Many thanks
Sara Onraet, Spain, wrote:
I am an English woman teaching English as a second language in Spain. One of my students asked me about apostrophes, and showed me an example in a well-known text book teaching English as a second language.
The example was this: I never buy meat at the butcher's.
I have never come across an example like this, and said I would investigate. I found your site, but I couldn't find specific examples. The only thing I can think of is that the sentence should be: I never buy meat at the butcher's shop, making it a possessive apostrophe. Am I right?
P.S. Thanks for a brilliant, clear and concise explanation on your site, and this chance to ask questions.
A: I think you are right. The word /shop/ is implied at the end of the sentence and so /butcher's/ requires the apostrophe. A less controversial alternative might be /I never buy meat at the butcher./
Roger Mitchell wrote:
Q: I received an invoice this morning from a Mr Williams, who recently did some fencing for me. Of course, he used the word "fence's".
He's a particularly nice man, so I'm not going to scan the actual invoice for your gallery, but what blew me away completely - a thing I'd never seen before - is that he put an apostrophe in his own name! Yes, he's signed the invoice "David William's". Is that the ultimate apostrophe?
A: As you say, that takes some beating!
R: Ye's indeed!
Trick W, Taiwan, wrote:
Q: Great Chaucer rule, it's a great way to think about them!
I'm an editor for an English magazine in Taiwan. We recently had an article titled 'A Book Lovers' Paradise'.
I felt that it should be 'A Book Lover's Paradise', and all the internet articles I found with a Google search seemed to use that style. One of the other editors said that it's "a paradise, enjoyed by numerous book lovers" (the article was about a really nice book store in Argentina), and therefore " Book Lovers' " was correct.
I'm still not sure, as the use of the indefinite article is complicating the issue. I'm happy with " Book Lovers' Paradise", for example.
What do you think?
Thanks for your help,
A: I agree that the use of the indefinite article is ambiguous. Is it a paradise for all book lovers or a paradise that a book lover will like?
There are arguments in favour of either, but I lean - just- towards it being a paradise for book lovers, so favour "A Book Lovers' Paradise". But I would hesitate to criticise the other point of view.
Sorry I can't be more definitive. Such is the English language!
R: No worries, thank for your help!
Beverley Martin, London UK, wrote:
Q: Thank you for the apostrophe lesson. I have one confusion though.
In some instances I have noticed that the apostrophe comes after the s'
It is not possessive, so when is it used in writing?
It is true that sometimes the apostrophe comes after the /s/. Perhaps you could give me an example of a usage which is confusing you.
For example, a sentence. She saw that the dress was very retro like the 1920s' swing style.
Is that correct? Is the 1920s' a possessive Plural noun?
A: One could argue that /1920s/ is a plural noun being used as an adjective, but I incline to the view that it is a plural possessive and that the apostrophe is correct.
R: I am writing a small novel. Thanks for your help!
Vijay Kumar Gupta wrote:
Q: Please confirm which of the sentence is right
1. The wheels of the train
2. Train's wheels
A: Both are correct! :)
Tim Walls wrote:
Q: Is the use of a double possessive correct or not? For example: "I live around the corner from a cousin of John's". Surely this should read: "I live around the corner from a cousin of John".
A: The latter is correct. But why not just say "John's cousin"?
R: I agree but my example was probably not the best. Similar are to be found all over the shop!!
Sonja Burger wrote:
Q: How do I contract: I would?
A: I'd use this one.
Sandie Bryan wrote:
Q: Hi can you tell me if this is right. I seem to remember my teacher saying that if I start a sentence, but leaving out the first word, then an apostrophe is correct, for example,
'Hope you are well. Instead of I hope you are well. Can you confirm if this is right?
A: I think such usage is now so antiquated I wouldn't bother. If you are simply writing down what a person actually says, there would be no need because they didn't say /I/ at the beginning of the sentence anyway.
R: Thank you very much. I appreciate you replying so quickly.
Frankie McLaughlin wrote:
Q: Thank you for running such a great website.
I am wondering which of these is correct:
'Enjoy your favourite nights out for less' or 'Enjoy your favourite nights' out for less'.
Many thanks in advance for your help!
A: The first. It is just the plural of /night/.
Xenia Manassi, UK, wrote:
Q: Can you please answer a query for me and an entire office-full of frustrated apostrophe users; we are constantly being corrected by an old fossil of a stickler on the following formulation [contested apostrophe in brackets]: "Upon the Mother's legal advisors['] being urged to expedite the negotiations...."
We understand that it is not due to a missing letter and it is not possessive. My personal hunch is that it has something to do with a fossil genitive, possibly due to conjuncting a sentence using "upon". I have also noticed the same formulation with "of", e.g.: "As a result of [my] being informed that..."
a) Is this formulation correct?
A: This is a difficult one and you are the first to raise it. In your construction /being/ is a gerund, basically a verb acting like a noun. In your phrase /being urged to expedite the negotiations/ it acts as a verb but the phrase as a whole acts as a noun. It is therefore liable to be modified for example by a possessive pronoun as in your second example using /my/.
I have to say then in that case that technically your stickler is correct. As /being urged to expedite the negotiations/ is in effect a noun, it can be modified by /advisors/ which is a plural in the genitive case.
Common usage does not always follow what is technically correct however and many people would omit the apostrophe and not draw comment.
Personally it is not a construction I favour and I would be tempted to rewrite the whole thing perhaps along the lines, /After the mother's legal advisors were urged to expedite the negotiations..../ or similar, depending on the context.
If you decided to treat /being/ as a verb form however, then this becomes an action of the advisers, in which case /advisers/ is simply a plural noun and requires no apostrophe.
This is probably not the response you wanted, but I hope it's of some help.
Q: Do we know why it is the genitive though? Does it depend on the conjunction?
A: No. It depends on 'possession', viewed in the broadest terms, not necessarily in the physical sense.
Nicole Damiani, Australia, wrote:
Q: I am the owner of a cafe in Australia called - FARMERS DAUGHTER.
I'm sure you instantly see the complete scandal I have created by my choice to omit the apostrophe from my business name.
While very little thought went into this decision (ultimately it came down to looks on the logo) now I find myself being quizzed daily on my foolish omission. And today, the lack of my apostrophe was taken nationally by a journalist in the Sydney Herald.
I am a farmer's daughter
I am not out to destroy the English language one symbol at a time
I am not such a feminist that I reject the notion of possession implied in farmer's.
If you can offer any legitimate reason to support my 'FARMER no apostrophe S DAUGHTER' name, please respond.
A: I think your only defence in this case is that it is a proper noun, i.e. a name. While I personally would have included the apostrophe, there are precedents for omitting it. Here in the UK there is a supermarket chain called Morrisons. No apostrophe. But we also have Sainsbury's. :)
Q: Could you please help me?
I read a notice at our local club which stated.
The club will remain open all day Saturday's.
When I pointed out that Saturdays does not have an apostrophe, I was shot down in flames in a very rude way.
Please could you tell me if I am right. It has now confused me and if I am wrong, I will say sorry.
'Sandra' who must remain anonymous as this man is quite scary.
A: You are right. But actually the final /s/ isn't really needed anyway.
The club will remain open all day on Saturday
The club will remain open all day every Saturday
would be even better.
R: Thank you so much. I was not going to mention the final /s/ as I would have made the situation even worse.
Sue Haywood, UK, wrote:
Q: I am producing some menu cards for an event run by and for the Royal Military Police Cyprus Veterans who are known, for brevity as the RMP Cyprus Veterans Group.
Should my heading be RMP Cyprus Veterans' Group or should it be ...........Veteran's Group. Or should there be no apostrophe at all.
I favour the ......Veterans' Group as the group belongs to the veterans, but this is being challenged. Grateful for your view.
A: Unless the whole event is being organised for just one veteran, then you are correct.
RMP Cyprus Veterans' Group
I hope it goes well.
R: Many thanks - for you answer and for your good wishes.
L, UK, wrote:
Q: First of all, congratulations on the website. I am a complete grammar FIEND (seeing incorrect grammar on public notices or corporate announcements makes my eyes hurt) but I'm glad that not only Lynn Truss is advertising the values of correct punctuation!
I do have one question about apostrophes that I can't see a solution to on your website. Would the following statement be correct?
The Company's trucks' international journeys' statistics are constantly considered.
I am currently correcting a document for a client (I'm a Russian so we're going Russian to English here) and without using the word "of" a lot, this sentence is just absolutely awful. How would you say this in beautiful English?
I guess that you won't reply in time before I have to send it off, but I'd be fascinated to know what you think, for future reference. Finally, you are welcome to use this email on your website, as long as you don't include my name or my company's name!
A: Statistics from our trucks' international journeys are constantly considered.
Constant consideration is given to the statistics from the company's trucks' international journeys.
International journey statistics from the company's trucks are constantly considered.
Q: Thanks Patrick, that is so kind of you! I do have one more question, if I were to be cheeky:
organizes the Groups' cargoes' international transportation
organizes the international transportation of the Group's cargo?
Is there a certain rule regarding two words with apostrophes in a row?
Keep up the good work!
A: organizes the international transportation of the Group's cargo
There are no rules as such about a series of apostrophes, but it can quickly become inelegant as you have found.
Gordon Yule, Swindon, UK, wrote:
Q: Hi. I've just read your article on line and am so much more enlightened, thank you very much. However, I'm still not sure about the answer to the question I had that drove me to your site in the first place. In the sentence, "there are 3 ds in Daddy", should it be "ds" or "d's"?
A: The problem arises because /d/ is not a word. To be consistent and follow the rule, is should be /ds/ but that doesn't read well. To make the point that the /s/ signifies more that one /d/, try using upper case, as in
"there are 3 Ds in Daddy".
I hope this helps.
Jody Gonzalez, Essex, UK, wrote:
Q: I wonder if you could answer a question for me please.
When there are several words that are able to be contracted, how do you know which way round it should be?
For example: it is not - it's not or it isn't
they will not - they'll not or they won't
she would have - she'd have or she would've
you would have - you'd have or you would've
I hope that makes sense, I appreciate your help.
A: In each case either is correct, but it depends on the context.
Richard Wellbelove, UK, wrote:
Q: I've just looked at your website and think the answer to my question has been provided! Thank you.
I am developing a website and have two categories for clothing, one for men and one for women. Having checked on a number of websites for major companies I am amazed at my findings, including one that has Mens and Women's.
My assumption is that it should be Men's and Women's and not Mens and Womens but in this instance could you explain why?
A: It will depend on the way the sentence is constructed but from what you say, it should be /men's and women's/ because both are possessives.
Q: I'm using the word Men's as a category on a clothing website - I presume this makes no difference?
A: If it's /Men's Clothing/ then that would be correct.
Gill Taylor, UK, wrote:
Q: I thought I knew all the answers but this one foxes me!
Where should the apostrophe go in the following sentence? This is Jill and Jacks house.
Should it read 'This is Jill's and Jack's house' or This is Jill and Jack's House or This is Jill and Jacks' house.
Help! I really need the answer
A: This is Jill's and Jack's house
R: Wow! .That was fast. Many thanks
Sally, New Zealand, wrote:
Q: Please clarify if an apostrophe is needed at the end of the following sentence:
"David is a lawyer for Wellington, Marlborough, Waikato and Far North Councils."
A: None needed. Councils is simply a plural.
R: Marvellous. thank you so much.
Jane-Anne Carr wrote:
Q: I am designing birthday party invitations for my goddaughters 5th birthday and am concerned that I will incorrectly use/incorrectly miss out the apostrophe! Could you help me out please? Do I need to put "Lucy's 5th Birthday" or is it supposed to be "Lucys 5th Birthday".
A: "Lucy's 5th Birthday" is correct for your goddaughter's birthday.
Russ Gray wrote:
Q: Nice article regarding the rule.
Though one thing that has hit me is the use of a noun that doesn't have an "s" at the end. As there is no missing letters would a name of one person ending with an "a" have the "s" added, plus "es" making the apostrophe after the 1st added "s"?
That's what I am working out, but just like to check.
A: No. Alicia's book is just that.
Jamie Colville, UK, wrote:
Q: Interesting read regarding apostrophes however I wonder if you could advise me further? I always believed that plurals for abbreviated words (e.g. PDFs, PCs, CDs, DVDs etc.) should not have an apostrophe unless they are possessive. Please tell me I am right. Trouble is I see nearly every time printed marketing material to the contrary and now I am questioning my belief!
Check out Amazon's own video advert of a Kindle which claims 'Native support of PDF's".
What's your view?
A: I believe you are absolutely correct and Amazon are wrong!
Andrew Zulver, UK, wrote:
Q: I found your site very interesting indeed so thank you for that...
I received a newsletter today with the title Google's Instant Indexing and I thought it should have no apostrophe - is this correct?
A: Yes, Google's is correct.
Q: Thank you so much for the apostrophe info, it was absolutely superb!! I have a question, if I write 'the EU's environmental sacrifice for energy security' would it be correct for EU to be apostrophe 's'. Sorry, I know, it's stupid but I would really appreciate your advice.
Thank you in advance for any wisdom you would be gracious enough to provide me with.
A: In short, yes. The term EU has become in effect word in itself, rather like Unesco or Gestapo, both of which are really abbreviations. So apply the rule and write /EU's/. After all, if you write /EUs/ people might worry there was more than one!
R: I can't believe you came back to me so quickly!! Thank you so much!!!
Ken Locke, UK, wrote:
Q: I have read your apostrophe web page this morning with great interest & am now much wiser as to its usage.
Whereas I considered myself reasonably educated before, I was still 20% ignorant. I am now down to 2 or 3% & have two questions for you.
In discussion with a colleague, he raised the following. (My surname is Locke - his is Davis.)
When visiting, would you say,
"Going round to The Lockes" ?
Or do you treat it as possessive ? i.e. The Lockes house, becomes The Lockeses house?, becomes The Lockes' house? (becomes the Lockes'?)
.....................or is it such bad English, you shouldn't say it anyway?
As for his family, do you say,
"Going round to The Davis's"? ...... or Daviss / Davis' / Davises????????? It's that darned double 's'. :-)
On your own site you say "Going round the shops" ............ is this ok as I always say around in which case should this therefore be 'round ???
Many thanks &
A: Proper nouns and names, especially those ending in /s/ always create problems. In your case I would opt for /Lockes'/. Your friend's case is bedevilled by that final /s/. Bearing in mind how one would say it, I would go for /Davis's/. There is an item in the possessives section called The Book of Cassius which explains this. There is also a question from Eddie Murphy on the Q&A page about guns belong to someone called Raines.
I wouldn't worry about whether one goes round the shops or around them. I think either acceptable and usage may vary in different parts of the country.
I hope you find this useful.
R: Cheers Patrick.............many thanks!!!!!!!!!!!
Clive Ketteridge wrote:
Q: My reason for looking.
I am poor at grammar and discovered when I learnt German I wasn't alone. Apostrophies or is it Apostrophie's have always baffled me. Having read this site only once I think I have learnt more than ever, (I'm 50) and will be ready to take the self test after another read.
So why did I read it?
I'm having a party and my summer house is to be the bar and I want a sign - My name is Ketts - My question to myself was should I call the bar
I thought c but now I think its b having read your site, because the 'es', from olde english has been replaced with ' and the tavern belongs to me :-)
Am I right? If I am then I think anyone can get it, if I'm wrong I'll read again and again.
A: If you read down to where it discusses the Book of Cassius, I think you will find option c fits better.
R: Oh no., a re-read required I thought c meant 'Ketts is tavern' therefore made no sense.
Keith Khan, UK, wrote:
Q: Thank you for your explanation of the use of apostrophes, it was very helpful.
There is unfortunately one issue that I can not seem to get my head around and wondered if you could clarify the rules in simpler terms.
The issue is with the example of "children's toys". I understand that children is plural so we need to add the 's', but toys is also plural so why doesn't the apostrophe go after the 's'? As in "Lots of children and all of their toys". Are we saying that child A has lots of toys that belong to him, child B has lots of toys that be long to him and child C has lots of toys that belong to him. So the children (A, B & C making them plural) have one set of toys each (making it singular), yet each set contains many toys?
I hope I am not over complicating the matter, I am just finding it difficult to understand.
A: Whether toys is plural or not is irrelevant. It is who owns them that matters. Even if several children shared a single toy, it would be /children's toy/. I think you are seeing problems where there is none.
R: Thank you Patrick for your immediate response, I think I understand now what you mean about possession and ownership. Am I right in believing that the apostrophe will only go after the 's' if the word ends in an 's' already thus preventing it from having a double 's' as in your example with the boys' coats. If that is correct, thank you very much, that will be the new thing I leant for today.
Louise Cook, UK, wrote:
Q: I have an interesting apostrophe problem (though its not terribly important)
I administer an annual awards scheme for our volunteers. Each year the runners up receive a book each as recognition. Our chairman needs to sign these books.
In the sentence "the chairman needs to sign the runners up books" where should the apostrophe and s go? Since runner up is pluralised by adding the s after the first word (I believe) do I add 's after the word "up" or just an apostrophe after the word "runners". What do you think?
A: This is an awkward one because it's a combination word. One could hyphenate it to be /runner-up/ and I have seen the plural in this case as /runner-ups/. But that sounds awkward as well. /runners up/ is probably the best plural but then one runs into apostrophe problems as you have found. Whichever solution is suggested the result is not good.
How about /the chairman needs to sign the books for the runners up/ ?
Sheelagh Davidson wrote:
Q: The trophy reads... The Past Captains Consolation Plate. Do I need an apostrophe after the word Captain, as it will be a plate belonging to the winning Past Captain.? Thank you for your interest.
A: Basically if there's one captain involved it should be /captain's/. If it's about all past captains, then it should be /captains'/
R: Thank you for that...my thoughts entirely.!! I will now take the Plate back, and ask for an apostrophe after the Captains.!! Many thanks for all your help.
Sunny D, UK, wrote:
Q: Is the statement below correct? And which if any of the suggestions are? Please could you explain the reasoning
Statement: GCSE English exams start this morning for my Year 11's and I'm nervous for them....
Suggestion 1: GCSE English exams start this morning for my Year 11s and I'm nervous for them....
Suggestion 2: My Year 11's GCSE English exams start this morning and I'm nervous for them....
A: Suggestion 1 is correct. /11s/ is neither a contraction nor a possessive, simply a plural.
Of course you could rephrase it and avoid the situation:
/Year 11 start their GCSE English exams start this morning and I'm nervous for my students..../
Q: Thanks for this Patrick, I have one more if that's ok
Is this correct: Contact the Libraries' Adult and Children's Services Team
A: Given that you are talking about more than one library, it is correct. 10/10 ! :)
Jayson Dutton, UK, wrote:
Q: At some point, you say the correct Modern form of something is Cassius's book when it should actually be Cassius' book (words ending in s can't have that extra s when using an apostrophe).
You also say that Peter's doesn't need the apostrophe, but in high school I was taught that it does, and Office Word 2007 supports that.
I'm not sure of these, but I want to check.
A: I don't recollect mentioning Peter, please could you remind where this is? The context would be important as to whether an apostrophe is relevant.
R: I was taught that it can't have that in English
And I forgot the example and couldn't be bothered to go back so I used Peter, but I looked at it again and it did have the apostrophe.
A: I am sorry but I think you were badly taught. Also beware of slavishly relying on spelling and grammar checkers. The person writing that software might not have been well taught either. Also check your language settings in the software.
R: Hmm, maybe I'm thinking of something different then :p
Claudia Husking, UK, wrote:
Q: Hallo, please settle a bet for me.
If I was going to write, 'I whimper in its looming shadow', would I write 'in its' looming shadow' or would I write it the first way?
A: The first is correct. The second would never be correct because when it is needed it is short for /it is/ and so the apostrophe would come before the /s/.
There is a section on /its/ and /it's/.. If in doubt, say it in full. "I whimper in it is looming shadow" makes no sense so the apostrophe is not needed.
Graeme King, Scotland, UK, wrote:
Q: Thanks for your helpful article. Very clear and accurate.
However, can I ask for your view on another use of the apostrophe? When you have a plural acronym do you put an apostrophe before the 's'. By way of example:
The phrase frequently asked questions is often abbreviated to FAQ's - but is it FAQs or FAQ's?
My belief is that it is FAQ's as an apostrophe should be used to pluralise an acronym - your missing letter rule would appear to support this as Q is short for questions so letters are missing. However, if that rule was strictly applied surely it would be F'A'Q's, which is clearly incorrect. I am not disputing your rule at all - it is very clear in every other sense - but can you give a definitive answer re acronyms?
Incidentally, I believe my understanding about acronyms also applies to numbers, so you would say in the 1960's, not in the 1960s, or she is in her early 20's, not she is in her early 20s. Do you have a view?
A: There is a point at which an acronym becomes a word in itself. Think of Gestapo or Unesco. I think that FAQ has reached that stage. I would therefore opt for / FAQs / without the apostrophe.
I also have a view on dates and numbers. One is simply pluralising so there is no requirement for the apostrophe. I was born in the 1940s and am now in my 60s. There is a sidebar on the website where I discuss CDs and MPs.
Thank you for a clear and prompt response. I will follow your guidance from now on.
Carole Lawrence, UK, wrote:
Q: How would you use the apostrophes in:
Seniors Captains Honours Board
A: Given that there is more than one Senior involved and more than one Captain, the without further information or knowledge of the context I would suggest
Seniors' Captains' Honours Board
/Honours/ is simply a plural nouns describing the board, so does not require and apostrophe.
Steve Bell, Ellesmere Port UK, wrote:
Q: Can you settle a dispute over New Year's Eve?
I think Year's should have an apostrophe as placed but my client is not so sure and thinks they will have complaints.
There is an e missing?
We would really appreciate a reply.
A: I'm with you - it should have one.
It is the eve of the New Year even it doesn't 'own' it in a possessive sense. It is therefore what is known in grammatical terms as an objective genitive. As a genitive, it merits the apostrophe.
Mandy Archibald, Murrurundi NSW Australia, wrote:
Q: Hello. I live in a small country town that has a large river running through it and many creeks that flow into the river. The river was named after a man called Page and two creeks were named after men called Boyd and Single. Throughout history they were referred to as the Page River, the River Page or the Page's River. Same with Boyd's Creek and Single's Creek. The Geographical names board has done away with the apostrophe and they are now officially known as Pages River, Boyds Creek and Singles Creek. ( the spell check incidentally tries to correct Boyds) I find this wrong and discourteous to the men they were named after as it effectively changes their names. They were not Mr Pages or Mr Boyds or Mr Singles. I emailed the GNB to ask them why they have left out the apostrophe and their reply was
The Geographical Names Board (the Board) decided that the possessive form should be avoided whenever possible without destroying the name or changing its descriptive application. Therefore geographical names such as Boyds Creek now have the apostrophe left out.
I have emailed back to ask why they decided to do this as they didn't answer my question. Maybe you can shed some light on this ?
A: I can't I'm afraid. I'm with you on this and also would like to hear why they feel the apostrophe in no longer required.
R: After searching more I've found that the American , British and Australian Geographical Naming Boards all have the same policy. I doubt any of them know why, just that that's the way it's always been ! If they do email me back as to why, I'll pass it on!
A: The US dropped such punctuation in 1890 when the US Board of Geographic Names removed the apostrophe from its database. Only five exceptions have ever been made, including Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, in 1933. Australia followed suit in 2001 for the sake of consistency in the databases used by the emergency services.
In Birmingham in the UK last year the council decided to drop apostrophes in place names and there was an outcry but the bureaucrats stuck to their guns. But it survives in some other British place names.
R: Thanks Patrick
I guessed as much. This is the response I received from GNB. Still doesn't answer my question as to why. I think it is very disrespectful to the people these rivers and places are named after.
I thought perhaps it could be a ' campaign to bring back the apostrophe' but I fear the horse has bolted and run too far............
The GNB adopted this practise from worldwide standards that have been in use since the late 1800s.
The United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names (UNGEGN) has also regarded this standard as a "world's best practise".
I hope this helps and if you need anything else please do not hesitate to contact me.
James Butler, Birmingham UK, wrote:
Q: I recently overheard a colleague being criticised for not putting an apostrophe in 'Parents Evening'. Had they wanted to, they would have written 'Parents' Evening', to show that the evening belonged to or was for the parents; but they wanted to use Parents to describe the evening, as in "What kind of evening?" "A parents evening!"
Despite trawling through some clear and scholarly articles and discussion pages, I've not found a thorough analysis of the possible adjectival role of plural nouns like parents, veterans, leaders, deacons, ladies. Seeing the Germanic origins of the apostrophe was helpful, but didn't get to the heart of this question. In short, what's the difference between Parents' Evening and Parents Evening? Can the latter be used to give a sense that the Evening is about, for, with parents, but not of them?
A: You are not the first to pose this question and as you have discovered, it is open to question. My personal preference would be to use the apostrophe, as you say it is an evening for parents even if they don't 'own' it in a possessive sense. It is therefore what is known in grammatical terms as an objective genitive. As a genitive, it merits the apostrophe. I know there is an argument that it is adjectival in this case, but it's not one I support.
I note too that you are writing from a school, so if only to keep the pedantic parents at bay, I would suggest using the apostrophe!
Sorry I can't be more definitive. Without an English equivalent of the Academie Francaise (and that is much ignored) there is no single authoritative source of English Usage. Fowler has nothing to say on the issue which probably indicates that he and his successors feel the usage is so incorrect it's not worthy of comment!
R: Thanks so much Patrick!
It's so liberating to be able to think through stuff like this with a bit of background knowledge, rather than go with 'Just because it is'. Secondary English teachers don't seem to get much time or incentive for thinking at this level of detail. I miss university.
George Rogers, UK, wrote:
Q: Can you please clear up the following queries and advise me which is the correct answer?
(a) Some of our managers enjoy 30 days' annual leave per year OR
(b) Should managers' enjoy 30 days annual leave per year.
(a) Britain's most famous kings' and queens' OR
(b) Britain's most famous Kings and Queens.
I would be grateful if you could please clarify. I understand the rules to some extent of 'possession' but sometimes I get a bit confused.
A: In number 1, neither a nor b require any apostrophe. /days/ is a plural and so is /managers/.
In number 2, the only possessive is /Britain's/. So b is correct.
Q: Many thanks for your help and quick response.
I don't know whether or not you will be able to respond to this query. The second question I asked you in my original email, I put lower case for kings and queens. Should it be capitals? I understand you only use a capital letter when referring to someone by name - is this correct?
Many thanks once again.
A: This would depend on the context. If it's a heading then you might wish to use upper case, but in body text I suggest lower case would be better.
When referring to a particular monarch it becomes a title, as in Queen Elizabeth II or King George VI. Protocol rather than grammar prefers upper case for the reigning monarch, as in /the Queen conferred the knighthood/.
Many thanks once again for clearing the query up regarding capitals. You have been very helpful.. /p>
Seasons Magazine wrote:
Q: Does a title of an article need an apostrophe?
CHRISTMAS AT THE VANDERBILTS
Jean Roscoe, UK, wrote:
Q: I have read your very interesting web article but am just a little confused. I am typing some tickets for a group - should it be: Over 60's Committee or, Over 60s' Committee or, Over 60s Committee or, as a last resort, Over Sixties.
A: Numbers do muddy the waters a bit. You will never keep everybody happy, but I would go either for /Over 60s' Committee/ or your last resort, /Over Sixties' Committee/.
R: Dear Patrick,
Are you sitting at your computer day and night?
Thank you so much for your prompt reply, I can now print the tickets which are needed for tomorrow.
Dave Young, UK, wrote:
Q: This relates to a book title. If the title of a book is 'waters edge' is this correct or should it read 'water's edge' or can it be both under the 'rule'
A: Proper nouns, titles and the like are always more problematical. I would suggest /Water's Edge/ but it could depend on the context. There are places called Waters Edge for example. Sorry not to be more definite.
Kevin O'Rourke. UK, wrote:
Q: MSN (news.uk.msn.com) are doing a thing on "illiterate Britain" with examples.
One example: "Parking Bay's Suspended" on a road sign, they say should read "Parking Bays Suspended".
I have said it depends whether it refers to Parking Bay singular or Parking Bays Plural.
If Parking Bay singular, the road sign , I think, is correct. If plural then "Parking Bays' Suspended" would , I think, be correct. Am I right, half right or not right at all?
A: I am afraid you are not right at all. It would not matter whether one bay is suspended or all of them. It is simply a noun, either singular or plural and neither contraction nor possession applies; therefore there is no need for an apostrophe in either case.
R: Oh dear!
Rhona M, UK, wrote:
Q: I agree with your site on apostrophes - except for one thing. You havn't mentioned that you use apostrophes to indicate belonging - as in Sarah's purse (the purse belonging to Sarah). I am a sixteen year old and even i know this, so i dont know whether you are just ignorant or if you made a mistake, or maybe you are American and the rule is different there? I only glanced over your site so i may have missed something, if so please just correct me.
P.S. I know my grammar isn't perfect in this email i am in a hurry.
A: You seemed to have missed the entire section on possessives. Try reading the site carefully. If you had read it carefully, you would realise that I am not American but a British teacher.
You admit that you just glanced at the site and yet are prepared to rush into criticism. I hope you apply more rigour to your own studies.
Good luck in the future.
R: Oops just saw the last page of your web that said about the 'Chaucer' rule - sorry about that, ignore my email. But i still think it's quite misleading to say only use apostrophes when there is a missing letter.
A: So when else do you use it?
Maria Inniss, UK, wrote:
Q: How would you write Mr.Inniss class using an apostrophe?
A: Mr. Inniss's class
Elizabeth Morrison, Windsor, UK, wrote:
Q: Just a quick query - could you confirm whether there should be any apostrophe at all in the following team title:
Assessments and Interventions Team.
I think there probably shouldn't be any?
A: I think you're right. Without knowing the context, I would suggest they are both plurals rather than possessives. So nothing is missing, so no apostrophes required.
R: Many thanks for getting back to me so quickly,
Jon Evans, London, UK, wrote:
Q: Hello there
I have read the pages but am still a bit confused - I thought I understood where it should go but on this one we are having a big discussion
I don't think there should be any apostrophe but they are adamant
Can you confirm (I am happy to be wrong! would just like to know :-)
A: This would depend on the context to some extent, but I think it refers to a meeting of the partners. There being more than one partner (and it would be hard to be a solo partner) then the apostrophe should come after the /s/.
Partners - partnerses - partners'
I am pleased therefore that you are happy to be wrong.
R: Thank you sir - getting it right on the partners' page is what matters :-)
Carol Chumley, London, UK,Name wrote:
Q: So in the instance below would it be Russell's or Russells' ? Please confirm
Following on from Russell's message of 27th May
A: It depends how many Russells there are. Just one, /Russell's/, more than one, /Russells'/
As there seems to be one message, I suggest one Russell, so /Russell's/ would be correct.
Daniel, Australia, wrote:
Q: .... one of my weakness' or .... one of my weaknesses?
A: The latter. It is simply a plural.
Patricia Evans, UK, wrote:
Q: I have always been quite confident in the use of the apostrophe until recently when I typed out a letter to be used as a Eulogy at a funeral. In the text was the line:
Multiple Schlerosis reared its ugly head.
She is convinced that it should read it's - I on the other hand had typed its'. I only use it's when the letter 'i' is missing. Please clarify - I have a grandson of 10 who will find all this information very helpful as he learns the basics on grammar.
A: The line is correct. /It's/ is short for /It is/ and would not make sense. This is explained on the page about contractions:
People are often confused about possessive pronouns. Pronouns are words used instead of a noun. He instead of John, she instead of Sally, it instead of the car etc. Each of these pronouns also has a genitive form denoting possession, his, hers and its.
This last one often causes people problems, asking why doesn't its have an apostrophe when it shows possession, but it does when it's a contraction of it is? But now we know that one is a contraction and the other a possessive pronoun that already is in the genitive case.
It's is short for it is or it has. Its means belonging to it, as in "It's probably spun off its neck by now". If you are uncertain which to use, say it in full, e.g. "The world spins on it is axis" is plainly silly, so one should use its rather than it's.
Darran Neve, Australia, wrote:
Q: Hi there,
Like your site. Am having a debate amongst colleagues in reference to the correct spelling of the Officers Mess. Most of the fellows believe that it is Officers' Mess (i.e. belonging to all the Officers), however I have been taught that there is no apostrophe as the word Officers is an adjective describing what type of Mess it is (i.e. as opposed to the Sergeants Mess or the Other Ranks Mess), not the Mess belonging to the Officers (even though the officers pay membership fees as per your example of the police association). Please advise.
A: From a purely grammatical point of view, I think it should be /Officers' Mess, Sergeants' Mess or the Other Ranks' Mess/ etc.
The fact that the officers pay a fee to the mess is not really relevant. Don't take the term possessive too literally in this case. It simply has to be the mess of the officers, they don't have to own it!
But one must take account of established usage. Not being a military person myself, I don't know what the established usage is. And the idea that /Officers/ is adjectival in nature is not without merit.
Like many things in a living language, it is in a state of flux and usage. (Latin scholars have it easy!)
I would stick with whatever is the established custom in the service. Does that make it a score draw?
R: Hi. Thanks for the reply.
The current usage on the Officers Mess signage is without an apostrophe, which is causing some angst among the ranks who believe that the Mess belongs to the Officers. I know a lot of people disagree with my point of view, however I will persevere with spelling it without the apostrophe. And no, I do not think it will end the arguments (we are split about 50/50 in the office) - but thanks anyway!
David M. Wallace, USA, wrote:
I just read your informative piece about apostrophes and was wondering if you can tell, if an apostrophe is needed in the sentence:
" One of the commandos fell to the ground." I'm not sure if I should use one or not. Thanks in advance!
A: I assume you are thinking whether /commandos/ needs an apostrophe. The answer is no. It is a plural, not a contraction or possessive. Nothing is missing so no apostrophe is required.
R: Thank you! :]
Tom Adams, Durham University, UK, wrote:
Q: I hate to be a pedant, but since your website does appear to be a haven of pedantry, I suppose it doesn't matter too much. The sentence that concerns me appears on the "contractions" page of your website.
"Its means belonging to it, as in "It's probably spun off its neck by now"
Unless, I'm very much mistaken, this doesn't really make sense. You give an explanation of "Its" as a possessive, then provide an example of "It's" as a contraction of "It has", which, where there not an apostrophe in the example sentence, would come dangerously close to suggesting that the "probably" belongs to "it".
I just thought I'd let you know so you could consider inserting an example that actually fits the exaplanation, to avoid confusing matters ever more for the many people who are mired down in the bog of apostrophe use.
A: Thank you for your email.
The example refers back two paragraphs to the point about one's head spinning. The sentence you quote seeks to emphasise the difference between the use of /its/ which is the possessive form although it does not use an apostrophe against the use if /it's/ which is the contraction and does have the apostrophe.
One of those little irregularities which so endear one to the study of grammar.
Gail Wood, UK, wrote:
Q: Please help with this one concerned with team sport/age groups.
The Under 16's play on a Friday night or The Under 16s play on a Friday night.
I'm inclined to go for the second one as it is a plural and if we wrote the word sixteen and not the number we would not use an apostrophe, but wherever I look I see confusion on this!
A: Under 16s. There is small section which talks about CDs, MPs etc. You are correct, it is a plural.
R: Thanks for clarification
Dave Preece, UK, wrote:
Q: Hi, just read your info' about the dreaded apostrophe. It's very good, I enjoyed it and I think it has really help me understand a little better.
However, I have a couple of questions please...
Children's toys??? Why not Childrens' toys as in boys' coats (assuming their are lots of boys and lots of children...???)
The book belonging to Cassius is Cassius's book, why is it not Cassius' book???
AM I BEING THICK!!!???
A: Because /children/ is already the plural of child.
Some, Americans mainly, would argue it should be /Cassius'/ book, but if you apply the rule, you get /Cassius's book/. Both are seen because of American usage in the main, but my preference is to be consistent, apply the rule and so use /Cassius's/
As for being thick, certainly not. Thick people don't think to question it!
R: Thank You for your VERY quick reply...!!!
I find your website VERY VERY informative, thank you...
Add me to your long list of testimonials if you wish, thanks again
A: Just a typo, I'm sure! :-)
Q: Hi, another quick one...
Why is there (or was there) an apostrophe in Hallowe'en and also why doesn't ANYONE ever put one at the from of words like plane as in aeroplane and or phone as in telephone???
All Hallows Eve = Hallowevening = Hallowe'en.
A: Because after much usage they are now accepted as words in their own right. Language is constantly evolving and changing if in daily use. English is not frozen like Latin for example.
Q: Hi there, I have another query for you...
In the Radio Times, this week; on pages 4 and 5 it says the following:
Director Neil Jordan's very human London-set tale turned Bob Hoskins's thuggish image on its head...
and, on the opposite page...
Let's Go to Misterland
Sunday 1:30pm Radio 3
Created in the 1970s, Roger Hargreaves' simplistic Mister Men stories and designs soon reached a global audience...
Why is it: Bob Hoskins's
but the it says: Roger Hargreaves'
Or is one or the other a simple mistake???
The way I understand apostrophes, it should be: Bob Hoskins's and: Roger Hargreaves's...
Or is it something to do with Hargreaves owning Mister Men and Hoskins not owning his thuggish image???
A: I agree with you; both should be /xxxs's/.
Probably different writers.
Jayne Large, West Midlands, UK, wrote:
Q: Very interesting reading. Could you help on this one
We are called Thomas Howse limited
Manufacture paint and powder
We always advertise under Howses' paints. Is that correct or should it be Howse's paints.
Is the rule the same with names?
Looking forward to your reply
A: Assuming there is only one Thomas Howse then
would be correct.
R: Thank you.
Liz Andrew wrote:
Q: I am writing invitations to my birthday party and I don't want to look silly - My name is Liz Andrew - the wording is
for: Liz Andrews 50th !
should I have an apostrophe and if so, where? Is it 's or s'?
A: Liz Andrew's 50th !
Have a great birthday!
R: Thanks so much!
Josian Phillips, Corsham, UK, wrote:
Q: I am secretary for local playgroup. We have "sessions for children rising five years of age". That we abbreviate to Rising 5's. OK I get that, but when it is plural, I think it should then be Rising 5s' sessions but this is contrary to anything else about Rising 5's I can find on the internet? Please help me. Everyone else seems to write "Rising 5's sessions" but this doesn't make sense to me.
A: I think you are right, it should be /rising 5s/ but the incorrect usage is seen widely There is a section about this using CDs as an example.
R: Thank you very much.
Monica Williams, London UK, wrote:
Q: For a dinner for the Chief Executives and Chairmen, which is right?
Chief Executives' and Chairmens' dinner
Chief Executives' and Chairmen's dinner
A: Chief Executives' and Chairmen's dinner
Chairmen is already plural so it follows the rule like /children/
Christine Luckie, USA, wrote:
Q: Thanks very much for your explanations. I still have one question though. I don't think you covered it.
The question in question:
the agentes telephone
the agent's telephone
one agent, one phone
the agentses telephone
the agents' telephone
more than one agent, just one phone
the agentses telephones
the agents' telephones
can this mean:
1- there is more than one agent and each has a telephone
2- there is more than one agent and each has more than one telephone?
How to make the distinction between 1 & 2 has always baffled me.
A: You can't simply by using apostrophes. They deal only with the possessive nouns, in this case, /agents'/ but not the thing that is possessed, such as the telephones. If it is important to clarify how many phones each agent has, then the sentence would need to be rewritten to show that.
R: To the Net Nerd who is not a forty-year lady librarian (my assumption):
Many thanks for the second opinion (and prompt reply!). I thought that was the case. But I needed to hear it from someone else.
Keep up the good work.
A: A 60+ year old retired male head teacher. Is that worse? :-)
Tamara Bax, UK, wrote:
Q: I am teaching my year 6 class about where to use the apostrophe for possession. Your webpage is great!
However, I am confused when you come to 'childrens toys'. You have said it becomes children's but I thought (by reading previously) it would be childrenses so becomes childrens'.
Please clarify so I can explain this to my class :)
A: Careful reading should show that it becomes
childrenes toys because /children/ is already plural,
and then contracted to
R: Thought that might be the case!
Thanks for your quick reply :)
Tracey Ashford, UK, wrote:
Q: My boss has produced a piece of promotional material for an event and has put the title as:
What Get's Measured Get's Done.
I think this is wrong - surely? There is nothing missing (you wouldn't say 'what get is measured get is done') and nothing belongs to anything... so it's not possessive.
I told her this with complete conviction and now it's being questioned and I've lost my conviction!
A: I confirm. You are absolutely right. No apostrophes needed.
Q: Oh yes! Thank you. Ha ha. No false modesty here. I'm right.
I think I may also send an anonymous link to the school my child attends. It sent out a letter saying 'We hope you all enjoy the library with it's new heating system.' That's a case where you don't need an apostrophe isn't it?
The Head sends out letters in his name with mistakes all the time. Have you considered running in-house training for teachers (and students). There is definitely a need and, I would've thought, a market for it.
A: Correct. The Head (or his secretary) is wrong. :-(
I am a retired head teacher and to be honest, I had had enough. I think the website will have to be my contribution, but please spread the word!
R: I love your site.
Thank you for your gift to education.
Lori Swartz, Canada, wrote:
Q: One of my colleagues e-mailed you in 2004 with an apostrophe question and you were both helpful and witty in your response. Another question recently came up and I hope that you can assist us with it.
Today, I was e-mailing about a farm called "Chudleigh's" (yes, the apostrophe is in the name) and I tried to use the possessive, which would read something like "Chudleigh's' website says that apple picking starts on Saturday." I suppose it would be easier to say something like "It says on the website for Chudleigh's that apple picking starts on Saturday." but it's more interesting the other way.
I guess my question is about correctness -- is there a way to place the apostrophe for the 2nd possessive when there's already an apostrophe near the end of the name?
Thanks in advance for your help!
A: Thank you for your kind words. I am not sure how helpful or even witty I can be this time.
Proper nouns, names, always cause problems, and if there's already an apostrophe in there, even more so.
Apart from the workaround you suggest, perhaps inserting the word 'farm' might alleviate the problem.
/Chudleigh's Farm's website says that apple picking starts on Saturday/
Still not ideal, but the best I can think of.
R: An excellent solution! Thank you and happy Punctuation Day.
Donald Bingham, USA, wrote:
What is the proper way to use an apostrophe at the start of a sentence? For instance,
('Cause or 'cause) I said so.
('Ello or 'ello), luv. ('Ow or 'ow) 're you doing?
('Til or 'til) the cows come home.
A: Interesting, and you are the first person to raise this. One can argue that the first letter should be lower case because the initial upper case letter is replaced by the apostrophe. Technically that may be correct, but upon reflection I think it would be better to use an upper case letter as in the first of each of your examples. It just looks better.
Sorry I can't be more definitive.
R: Hello, Patrick,
Thanks for the quick reply. Your reason to capitalize the first letter after the apostrophe makes sense to me.
B Carter, Canada, wrote:
Q: Is this correct? International Ministers' Wives' and Ministers' Widows' Auxiliary
A: Well, yes, But it's horrible. Isn't there a better of phrasing it to avoid this series of possessives?
R: This is an international organization. I would like to have it read: International Auxiliary of Ministers' Wives and Ministers' Widows--however, that would call for an amendment to the Constitution and By-Laws. Since I was responsible for compiling and re-typing the document, I wanted to be accurate in my presentation. I know it is a bit much.
Steve McQueen, UK, wrote:
Q: I've enjoyed reading the examples on the pages.
I'm working for a company called Wates. in correspondence we refer to : Wates range of products. Should it be Wates' range of products?
A: Following the rule, and with reference to the section 'The Book of Cassius', / Wates's / would apply. Strictly speaking / Wates' / implies more than one firm called Wates who have products, although I appreciate that the context would probably make it clear it was one company called Wates.
Q: Thank you for that swift reply.
Does that imply that in such cases, either Wates' or Wates's would be acceptable as long as the use is consistent?
A: My preference would be for Wates's because it follows the rule. And it is important to be consistent. There are some, particularly Americans, who would argue for Wates'. In the end it comes down to personal choice
R: Thank you for your time.
It's a really interesting useful and helpful site.
Coreen A. Silverman, USA, wrote:
Q: Does one place an apostrophe at the end of abbreviated degree that follows a person's name or at the end of the actual name. For example, should it be this or not- John Brown, M.D.'s book?
A: Theoretically, yes. But it looks awful. I suggest leaving out the MD part; I assume by the time this is read the reader will already know that John Brown is an M.D. I'd just go with /John Brown's book/.
Ask if it is important in this context that he is an M.D?
Q: Thanks a lot. I always thought that it was incorrect to place the apostrophe at the degree designation.
A: Not incorrect, but better to find another way.
Patricia Brock, USA, wrote:
Q: Your approach to the apostrophe is great, but I may still be confused. Please respond to this sentence:
The luncheon will be at Bill and Judy Olsons.
1. We will go to Bill and Judy Olsons for lunch.
Should Olsons have an apostrophe because the word, "house," is missing or implied?
2. Lastly, how about: (family last name "Brock") The Brocks will be glad to provide dessert.
Thank you very much.
A: 1. I suggest yes. /We will go to Bill and Judy Olson's for lunch./
2. No, it's a simple plural, more than one Brock.
Danny Berridge, UK, wrote:
Q: I hope you don't mind me asking you this question but, I have accessed your site for information on how to use the apostrophe in a particular sentence however, I am still somewhat unsure - would you be able to assist please?
The sentence is: "Managers have responsibilities towards their team members health & safety"
I think it should be 'team members' health & safety', is this correct please?
A: Absolutely! Unless it's a team of one!
Tom Pettinger wrote:
Q: Do you by any chance know the rule for "etc."? Microsoft Word insists there should not be 2 full-stops after it at the end of a sentence, but surely 2 makes sense?! Thanks for any help
A: For once, Word is right. A full stop is a full stop. It stops the sentence as well as ending the abbreviation. You can kill something only once! :-)
Mark Peretti, Harrogate, UK wrote:
Q: Is the use of the apostrophe in the following sentence correct?
Appendix D also contains details of my firms' current charging and disbursements policy.
Or should it be ... firm's current charging ...?
I would have thought the later. Your help would be appreciated greatly.
A: It depends how many firms you have.
If you have several firms, the it's /firms'/
If you have one firm, then it's /firm's/
The section about the coats and the boys applies here.
R: Thanks for your help.
Gareth Harris, UK, wrote:
Q: Systems Manager
please could you clarify.
A: This all depends on how it is interpreted. If one regards the term as possessive, that is a manager of systems, then /Systems' Manager/ would be appropriate. Unless of course the manager manages only one system, in which case System's Manager would be correct.
However, if one regards the term as descriptive, that is simply describing the type of Manager, then /Systems Manager/ could be used.
I think the last is the more common, but whichever you decide to use at least now you can justify it to critics.
Linda Lally, UK, wrote:
Q: I've been looking at your website which is very informative. I wonder if you could clear up an enquiry I have on a couple of uses of the apostrophe here in London.
My colleagues and I have been having a debate to work out if one is right or wrong or if they are both technically correct:
St. James's Park
St Thomas' Hospital
Grateful for your thoughts.
A: Place names are a law unto themselves. In such cases it's best to use what the place or institution calls itself.
R: Thanks Patrick..
Gabriel May, Lincoln, UK wrote:
Q: I'm from the Lincolnshire Echo. I'm doing a story on the (mis)use of apostrophes and was hoping you could give me some comment. It seems that many Lincoln signs don't have any apostrophes when they should and others do when they really shouldn't.
Here are my questions on the matter:
1. Why does it matter if street names (and other signs) use apostrophes in the correct way?
2. What reasons would this irritate someone?
3. What reason is there for apostrophes to be left out of signs?
4. What is the best suggestion to resolve the debate of the use of apostrophes?
5. Do you have any other comments on the matter?
I would be very grateful if you could respond back today as soon as possible.
Cheers and thanks for your time.
A: My answers:
1. Much would depend on the street sign and the name involved. Names are always a difficult area for apostrophe usage and opinions do differ. The main question would be a avoid ambiguity where a plural and a possessive could be confused.
2. If someone is a fully paid up pedant, they might find what they see as standards in English declining. But English is a living language and as such fluid and dynamic. If there was a circumstance where the lack of correct apostrophe usage made the meaning unclear, that might irritate someone.
3. None that I know of, unless it's to save paint or space. If there is an unequivocal case for an apostrophe and it is omitted, the owner of the sign parades his or her ignorance before the world.
4. For people to understand why they are there and how to use them correctly, or not as the case may be.
5. Apostrophes are widely misused and misunderstood. This is largely because they have not been taught properly, in the main nowadays by teachers who were themselves not taught grammar in the 'discovery bandwagon' that rolled through education in the 60s and 70s
Gordon Griffiths, UK, wrote:
Q: My grandchild had an apostrophe lesson and included was the phrase "Tom is going" shortened to "Tom's going". I maintained that the apostrophe is not used in this way. Am I right, or is my memory playing tricks on me?
Thanking you in anticipation
A: I am afraid your memory is letting you down. This is a simple contraction. If you look at the page about contractions, there are several examples. None of them involve names (perhaps I should rectify that) but at the bottom of the list are some examples where the word /is/ becomes shortened to /'s/
I hope your grandchild will not gloat too much!
R: Hello Patrick,
Thank you for your prompt reply. I stand corrected, and the humble pie is in the oven. My grandchild will not gloat but her parents will never let me forget.
A: I have now added "Tom" to the contractions page.
Penny Drinkall wrote:
Q: I like the way you have linked the Germanic influence on our language - so it's not all our fault!
Seriously though, I have come across many sites, from both sides of the Pond, that suggest we put the apostrophe after the s in names (not words like bus) ending in S. The usual being Jesus, Moses, Titus, , Jones, Williams. What should I take as the proper English rule?
A: The problem is, there is no proper English rule. The English language has no central arbiter of what is right and wrong. Even the French, who have the Academie, follow their own rules in everyday speech.
In the section I called the Book of Cassius, I suggest that for clarity and consistency, one should apply the rule. Another approach might to have regard to how the word is spoken. One would probably say /Jesuses/ but not /Moseses/.So you could use Jesus's and Moses'.
Not much help, I know. The important things is to avoid ambiguity and ensure that intended sense is passed to the reader.
Margaret Richards, UK, wrote:
Q: This is an extract from something and I have an argument going on about the apostrophe after the word 'years'. Could you settle the argument?
'...too many road miles led to 5 years' full-time study at the Anglo-European College of ........'
A: I would go with the current consensus that in this case the apostrophe is not required. This is because it is here being used as an adjective to describe the full-time study, rather than a possessive.
Q: Oh ok thanks. Do you mean it is actually wrong to use it? I have an argument going on here!
A: Both are in usage. This is one of the most contentious areas of apostrophe use. Most people would say that it is not needed, but that is not the same thing as saying that in this case it is actually wrong. It depends on your interpretation. If you regard the /five years/ as a way of describing the study, then it's not required. If you think that the study in some 'belongs' to the five years, then you would argue it's a possessive and needs the apostrophe. But I think it merely describes the study.
A living, dynamic language is always open to interpretation.
R: Thanks for that!
Roger Burton, Singapore, wrote:
Q: Please forgive me for intruding but I have a simple problem ... contractions I more or less understand but what is the rule with something like this :
Demonstrations ... contracted to demos or demo's ...
Many thanks for your time.
A: I think whichever you do, someone will say it's wrong. Much revolves around whether you regard /demo/ as a contraction of /demonstration/ or whether you think that usage has now established it as a word in its own right. We talk of /demo mode/, of going on a /demo/ etc.
If you subscribe to the latter case, then I would omit the apostrophe and go for /demos/. This has the downside that it looks like the Greek word demos.
Personally, I would try to rewrite the sentence to avoid the problem altogether.
Sorry I can't be more specific. That's the problem with a living, dynamic language.
R: How very good of you to take the time. Yes the dynamic language ... a lot to answer for.
Rhian Maguire, Ireland, wrote:
Q: I wrote on someone's Xmas card envelope The Foy's (as in their surname) and she said I had mis-used the apostrophe as it should be The Foys. However in defence I was claiming it was "The Foy's Xmas card".
Am I correct or was she correct.
Thanking you in anticipation.
A: Given that the surname is Foy, then I say that /The Foys/ is correct as on the envelope the sense is /To The Foys/ as an address, not a description of the contents.
With your defence, I think you are pushing your luck there! :-) How many cards do you get labelled The Maguire's Xmas Card?
Rob O'Brien, UK, wrote:
Q: Please can you help me. What is the correct use of apostrophe in the scenario below?
Is this correct??
Season's Greetings from Rob
A: I think you are correct, but it is not often seen.
Maureen Robinson, South Africa, wrote:
Q: If a word ends in an ess, where does the apostrophe go?
Where would the apostrophe go in the following :
The crown of the princess. The princesses crown.
The crowns of the princesses. The princesses crowns.
A: For my money:
The crown of the princess. The princess's crown.
The crowns of the princesses. The princesses' crowns.
R: Thank you very much.
Chelsea Smith, USA, wrote:
Q: I am making a sign to put outside my house, but I don't know if I need an apostrophe or not....
Should it say "Welcome to the Smith's" and "Welcome to the Smiths"?
Or should it say "The Smith's" or "The Smiths"
I know that is it said "The Smith's House" an apostrophe is necessary but because the word "house" is omitted I'm confused. Please help me cause I don't want to mess this up! Thanks, Chelsea
A: I assume that more than one Smith lives in the house. So you start with Smiths, plural. But are you welcoming people to the house, or to the company of the Smiths inside it? In that case there is no possessive, it is simply /Welcome to the Smiths/ , ie to the people. No /house/ omitted.
If you felt that they are being welcomed to the building, then /Welcome to the Smiths' / would be better. But if you have space, you could have /Welcome to the Smiths' Home/ which makes it clear.
Hope this is of some help.
Q: Thank you. That does help, but one last question....What if the sign is simply going to say "the smiths" do I need an apostrophe?
A: I would say not. It is saying , this is where the Smiths live, not necessarily a possessive. /The Smiths/ would be fine.
Jane Peterson, Dunbar, Scotland, UK, wrote:
Q: Fantastic site: I speak German but never thought of the link!(Argh!)
Now then, how about 'Jesus's Life'. I just can't bring myself to write it because it looks so clumsy. I read somewhere that you can make an exception of names such as Jesus, and just leave off the final s, e.g. Jesus' life. Looks so much nicer to me. What do you think?
A: One school of thought in America would side with you. How would you say it? I say /Jesus's/ as in /throughout Jesus's life/. I add an extra little /s/ as I say it. And I think it has the merit of consistency.
R: Many thanks. By the way, I'm also a teacher, so it's very useful to get everything sorted out in my head. (Although I don't think I'll be able to use your Germanic endings explanation with nine year olds, but never mind.)
A: Why not? I used to with Yrs 5 and 6. Not sure what the Scottish equivalent is but Y5 is 9-10, Y6 is 10-11. :-)
Mark Edworthy, USA, wrote:
Q: First, congratulations on The Dreaded Apostrophe! It's great and I've used it a number of times to help people out.
I have a query re the possessive page. How does the rule fit when referring to the book which belongs to both Mr & Mrs Cassius?
I think that would be a useful addition to an already excellent page.
A: Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad it's useful.
I would suggest following the rule as stated, /Mr & Mrs Cassius's book/. Or one could change the sentence construction to avoid the problem entirely!
/The book, which belonged to Mr & Mrs Cassius, fetched a high price.../ or similar.
Kate, USA, wrote:
Q: am having a dilemma about having engraving done. Is it Kate's own or Kates' own. I want this engraved on my iPod shuffle. meanwhile browsing your site I do have a new word for you. It is am'nt which means am not. I created this word 35 yrs. ago in grade 3. I think it is neat. So anyways I hope you get back to me and let me know all the answers.
A: How many Kates are there? If the iPod belongs only to you, then it should be /Kate's/. If the iPod is shared by many Kates (unlikely) then it would be /Kates'/.
Your invented word is interesting. I assume it's short for /I am not/ which you would use as /I am'nt/. I think most people would say /I'm not/, that is shortening the /am/ part instead of the /not/. But English is a living language and new words appear all the time. Perhaps yours will catch on!
One thing though, you have placed the apostrophe in the space, not where there is anything missing. I suggest you write your word as /amn't/ because it is the /o/ in /not/ that you have dropped.
R: Yes upon getting your reply I do see that I did spell amn't wrong below. I never actually write it on paper but do make a point of using it some times. I just think it is a neat word. I did go ahead and get Kates' Own and am now sorry. But thats okay. thanx again for the info. Have a gr8 day.
Billy Moon, UK, wrote:
Q: I hope you can settle an argument we are having.
Is it "The leaver's assembly" or "the leavers' assembly" when there is more than one leaver?
A: There's no reason to have an argument! Simply apply the rule. Given that this involves more than leaver as you say, Then you start with the plural /leavers/. Add the /es/ to show possession = /leaverses/ and then omit the possessive ending = /leavers'/
Do you win the argument?
R: Yes- now to convince my boss!!!
A: Tell him if that he can have /leaver's/ provided he is the one and only leaver! :-)
[Would you bother having an assembly?]
If this is a school we are talking about, he should know better!
R: Sorry, I forgot my manners. Thank you for your prompt reply
Chindu Sreedharan, UK, wrote:
Q: A very interesting site... quite a few insights into the why and how of the apostrophe...
Also, a query: if I am not mistaken, usages such as CD's and 20's are not incorrect. I think those were initially used by printers to ensure the letters didn't run together and create confusion. Even today I think the New York Times uses that. But the rest of us don't -- because the sophisticated -- and sharper -- typefaces we use today allow for no such confusion (though we do use the apostrophe s to indicate the plural of lowercase letters -- like p's, for instance, instead of ps). Would like to hear your take on this...
Thanks, once again, for a very useful take.
PS: I am a journalist, now teaching news and feature writing at an English university.
A: I think this came into usage when headline writers, who were using all capitals in their headlines, needed to demarcate the /s/ as a plural rather than an initial. CDS as against CD'S. MPS as against MP'S. Sensible headline writers, usually sub-editors, now use lower case headlines, The Guardian for example, and so there is no need for this misuse. So now we can have CDs and MPs and the distinction between the initials and the plural is clear. Of course whether one should create plurals from initials is another matter. After all, being pedantic, it should be MsP as it is the Members of Parliament! :-)
As for numbers, I disagree with you, but then I grew up in the 1960s. :-)
But it has been let out into the wild and now the misuse is out there.
Q: Thanks, Patrick.
I am not arguing a case for CD's -- or for that matter, 1920's (I personally use 1920s). Just was curious about the history, the why of it. Also, the fact NYT still goes strong with it. I think it is something students need to know about -- well, this was correct, and this is being used thus, but that's quite unconventional now.
Again, curious on how you would pluralise a lowercase letter... ps or would you write it p's?
R: I think I would probably use a capital P or rephrase the sentence to avoid it.
Steven Gale, Denmark, wrote:
Q: I was just wondering how to add a possessive apostrophe to the business name PowerLynx. For instance, would it be PowerLynx', PowerLynx's, or something else.
A: Applying the rule, PowerLynx's
R: I guess that's the rule, but it seems awkward. For example, for the company Xerox, I would think "Xerox' new product" would sound better than "Xerox's new product." Again, I'm not sure. I was under the impression that company names are a bit of a gray area.
Regardless, thanks for all your help.
A: I prefer the latter. Try /the fox's lair/ as an example of the rule applying. Proper nouns can be awkward, but one does one's best.
Ron da Silva, USA, wrote:
Q: Should I have an apostrophe in "students' names" when I mean to say "the names of the students"? It does seem to fit in the pretend Chaucer "studentses names". Am I correct? If so, I seem to have gotten the single rule "when letters are missing".
What about "course results" meaning "results of the course? Why not use apostrophe?
A: You are correct /students' names/ is the correct use of the apostrophe there.
Results is simply a plural - nothing 'belongs' to the results, they belong to the course. You might consider /course's results/ for one course, or /courses' results for the results from several courses. But it is usually expressed as a double noun, that is /course/ is part of a single expression. One of those things in a dynamic language.
Q: Here is another question for you:
Which is the correct one: doll's house or doll house? dolls' house or Doll house?
I understand that it should be doll house as compared to brick house, dog house, etc.
However, I found on the wikipedia something called QUEEN MARY'S DOLLS' HOUSE. There is also a book called The Dolls House.
What does dolls' house mean?
It is all confusing to me: doll house, dolls house; doll's house, dolls' house. I would appreciate your explanation on this.
Many thanks for your help,
A: It's a house for dolls, so I favour /dolls' house / . The analogy with brick house would only be valid if the house were made of dolls! :-)
Dan Silva, USA, wrote:
Q: I have three questions:
1) Why did you say "The Maloney Family HAVE" considering "family" is singular?
2) Because of many conflicting sources, it is still unclear to me whether or not numbers and lowercase letters require an apostrophe when plural. Many say this is a usage of apostrophes, but only with numbers or lowercase letters. Would you say "5s" or "5's"? Would you say "is" or "i's" or ""i"s" or the first one with italics/another font?
3) In written dialogue in which someone says "gettin" or "bringin" (or something like that) would you write "gettin'" or "gettin" or "gettin`"? (Which is proper?) What is that third thing called? - not an apostrophe right? Does this follow the rule of having an apostrophe where something is missing?
A: 1. Some times a noun which is grammatically singular is inherently plural because of its meaning, such as family or government. Because of the semantic content, speakers often think of these as pluralities, even though the grammar is singular.
2. Sources do conflict, but as I say here, one ends up with a mish mash of 'rules' whereas I am saying that all apostrophe usage can be governed by one simple rule which offers consistency. Numbers etc follow the same rules as /CDs/ or /MPs/, the 1960s for example. Your idea of using a different font sounds a good one.
3. That 'third thing' is caused by people pressing the wrong key (the one above the Tab key) on their computer. It's meant to be an apostrophe (the one near the Enter key).
R: Thank you very much. Gotta love consistency...
Mags Scroope, South Africa, wrote:
Q: Please could you help me with a question that one of my students asked me? Would "Bachelors Degree" or "Honours Degree" have an apostrophe?
I would so appreciate your input.
A: I would think not. This is because they are adjectives describing the type of degree. In fact, I would suggest that /bachelor degree/ is more accurate than with the /s/. In the case of a degree with honours, again, Honours is a plural noun, being used to describe the degree.
R: Thank you so much for your very helpful reply.
Partridge Associates, UK, wrote:
Q: Maybe you could settle a question that I have regarding the use of an apostrophe to abbreviate a date? Is 2006 abbreviated to '06 or 06'? Thanks
A: Pedantically /'06/ would be correct because characters are missing. But the simple /06/ is equally clear in context. It is analogous to /phone/ as against /'phone/ for telephone. It is more often seen without the apostrophe now. So I wouldn't lose sleep either way.
David Hill, UK, wrote:
Q: I was pleased to come across your website. Can you help me with a problem I have with names and surnames? My surname is Hill not Hills, if I put up a poster at church with a simple title like The Hills, in my case would I use The Hill's or The Hills? A family sent us details of their new address with the title "The Parry's" (their surname is Parry). Which is correct? This is causing me grief from some at church.
I look forward to your reply.
A: Almost certainly /The Hills/ would be correct as it is simply a plural of /Hill/ but one would need more information to be absolutely sure.
As for the Parry situation, again, almost certainly, /The Parrys/ would be correct, for the same reason.
Sorry your congregation give you grief. Good Christian people then. Refer them to Matthew 7:1
R: Thank you for this. The Hills/Hill's or Parrys/Parry's would be an abbreviated title for News from the Hills/Parrys or The Hill's/Parry's New Address proven by the fact that under the heading is the new address. Would that change the use of the apostrophe in the heading or should it only be used if the full heading is used. And what if the heading was News From the Hills? Presumably that is correct even though I don't like it? (Microsoft Word 2003 constantly wants me to add an apostrophe in names like the Parrys).
I have always objected to being referred to by the surname Hills because my surname is Hill so would have opted for News from the Hill's. Sometimes I simply reword the title to avoid Hills with something like: Hill Household News.
I notice that Woolworths is Woolworths without the apostrophe yet Sainsbury's have opted for an apostrophe. Which is correct or is there a difference for trade names? On TV Marks and Spencer and Tesco, for instance, are always referred to without an S on the end. It irks me to hear people referring to Ikeas or Tescos (Tesco's as one of the local posters puts it), but "I'm going to Marks and Spencer" doesn't sound as good as "I'm going to Marks and Spencers). What is your take on this?
I appreciate you help and time... My biggest problem is the overuse of the comma and, when preaching, spoonerisms! I know I can get help with the former but doubt that there is anything I can do about the latter! My best spoonerisms are: I'm going home for a cuss and a kiddle with my wife, and, Our farforthers (instead of forefathers)!
Elise Kinney, USA, wrote:
Q: Why do we (at least ion the USA) put an apostrophe before the word "flu"? Yes, it indicates a missing letter, but the full word is "influenza." Shouldn't it be 'flu'? Thank you!
A: I suppose so. I think the usage of the apostrophe before flu is dying out as flu becomes a word in its own right. How often these days does one see 'phone for telephone? One of the interesting things about a living language. :-)
R: Thank you for your response. After the fascinating explanation on your WEB site of what letter has gone missing and why the apostrophe is now used in the possessive, such as in "George's hat" - I was expecting a lengthy and enlightening discourse on the missing apostrophe at the end of "flu". I appreciate your response all the same.
By the way I know of at least two people who still write 'phone with the apostrophe, myself and my British born friend Alix. No doubt we are a dying breed.
Thank you again,
Petra Callaly, UK, wrote:
Q: Brilliant website, congratulations!
Here are my two questions:
You may have noticed an excessive usage of 50's instead of 50s. This is I believe incorrect as 50s is a plural (all the years of that decade 51,52, 53 etc.) and as you would put it ' there is nothing missing'. However, does the same rule apply if I include the first two digits as well, i.e. 1620's / 1620s?
Singular nouns ending with 's' does not require any special treatment when it comes to an apostrophe usage for their possessive forms. However, I have seen that American English likes to omit the second 's'. Would you say both is correct then? James's books and James' books (Alex's ideas or Alex' ideas).
Many thanks in advance.
P.S. Please excuse my not-so-brilliant English, I am not a native speaker, just need to know my apostrophes.
A: 1. Why not? 1620s is correct.
2. /James's/ is more consistent and adheres to a single rule. Some American usage omits the second /s/ when the name ends in /s/. The section on the Book of Cassius deals with this. I prefer the consistent usage.
Alex does not end in /s/ so the possessive should always be /Alex's/
R: Thanks very much, Patrick.
Viv Brundell, UK, wrote:
Q: We are applying your Chaucer rule to my 9 year old son's homework and are getting confused over a couple of sentences on where to put the apostrophe. Any help/explanation would be grateful if you have the time.
Norak Drogan wrote:
Q: Greetings. I'm having a difficult time in finding information about a certain way to use the apostrophe. I've looked at and read everything I can about the usage of it, but I still can't seem to figure this one out. Maybe you can help. This is the text: "...one of the elders houses." Where does the apostrophe go here? Before or after the 's' of elders?
A: This would entirely depend on whether the reference is to one elder who may own several houses, or lots of elders each with a house. That is why correct placing of the apostrophe is important. Its position can radically alter the meaning.
The section on the boys and their coats on the website is similar.
R: Thank you so much, that makes it perfectly clear to me now.
Julie Foster wrote:
Q: Very interesting. My boss and I are in dispute.
Where would you put the apostrophe in peoples attitudes? How do you apply it to Chaucerian English
A: Given that /people/ is already plural in this case it would be /people's attitudes/.
R: Thanks, I'd better read your article again!
Alistair Rainback, France, wrote:
Q: I read you website and it makes perfect sense (I think!) But, I'm having a wee bit of difficulty in working out the following sentence though.... "What really appeals to me is Hugh's ambition" I'm not sure what to do because there is no letter missing but putting an apostrophe doesn't look right. Can you help out at all? I appreciate your help! Best wishes
A: Hugh is a name, so the 'Chaucer' possessive would have been /Hughes/ adding the /es to show possession, in this case of his ambition. Follow the rule and remove the /e/ to leave /Hugh's/.
R: Thanks Patrick I appreciate your help!
Margaret Eason, Northallerton UK, wrote:
Q: I agree your 'one rule' apostrophe system is a revelation. I attended a Grammar School in the 1960s ( is that correct without an apostrophe, I put one in but removed it using your rule)
Also my quest for enlightenment on the subject began today when I accessed 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' on the web to see
how the following phrase was written, 'Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do or die' and it was written without apostrophes, is this correct, I would have written their's.
You see I am still struggling.
A: I'm afraid English is never that simple!
I think that it should be /theirs/ without the apostrophe. The reason is that /their/ is already a possessive pronoun, and the rule applies to nouns. So the genitive possessive case is already contain in /their/ and therefore would not need to be repeated.
R: Thank you Patrick, it's very tricky, I'm out of my depth, especially with the genitive possessive case. I am however, perversely pleased in my wrongness since the BBC (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/3944699.stm) made the same mistake, thank you for that! Thinking about it again using your rule, it seems to me that the apostrophe in 'their's' could stand for 2 missing words, 'their (duty is) to do or die' I think I will let it die there....having added to the continuing controversy generated by the Charge of the Light Brigade! Many thanks for your prompt reply Best Regards
Kevin O'Neill, UK, wrote:
Q: On the subject of golf is there an apostrophe in " Mens singles medal team trophy"
I am told it should be "Men's singles medal team trophy"
A: Whoever told you was correct. Men is already plural so it follows the rule like /children/.
Tracy Whiteside, UK, wrote:
Q: I have a query, which I hope you could resolve for me.
If a company is called Siemens or URS and they have a computer, where could I put the apostrophe. For example, Siemens's computer or Siemens' computer and URS's computer or URS' computer
I believe it should be the first one (I have a 50% chance of being correct), but would appreciate your confirmation.
A: When dealing with proper nouns - names - it's much harder as they often don't conform to any rules. However, if you read the section on the "Book of Cassius" you will see that it agrees with you, that your first is correct.
One American school of thought would favour the second which is why the latter usage is more common in the USA. I prefer to stick the system which at least has the merit of being consistent.
R: Many thanks for that.
Susannah Hobby, UK, wrote:
Q: I am producing a poster and would very much appreciate your input on the apostrophe front:
Norton Toddlers' Ladies' Night
Do I need both apostrophes?
A: To be honest, I find that confusing. What is group called? Do toddlers have ladies? It implies the ladies belong to the toddlers. Unlikely.
I am going to assume there is a Norton Toddler Group which is holding a night for ladies. The mothers of the toddlers?
In that case I would suggest avoiding the issue - and perhaps making it clearer - by using the title of the group at the top
Norton Toddlers' Group
and underneath a bit bigger
If I have missed the point, please get back to me
R: Many thanks for your reply. I will take your advice, it looked so strange with two apostrophes .
With grateful thanks
Linda Arthrell, West Midlands, UK, wrote:
Q: I wonder if you can help clarify which should be the correct spelling of our company name?
I work at a company owned by a Mr Young, called Youngs Group. Some members of staff use an apostrophe (Young's) and some don't.
Which is the correct version?
A: As it is a group belonging to Mr Young, it is a possessive form.
So using the 'Pretend Chaucer' system, one would start with
/Younges/ then /Young's/
Hope this helps. No need to change the website then..:-)
R: Thanks very much Patrick - I really appreciate your help !
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