The Dreaded Apostrophe


Some Testimonials

Glad you approved of the book - and welcome to the pedants' club.
I'm struggling to find a way of faulting your theory ... and having a bit of trouble.
Well done.
John Humphrys
(BBC Journalist; Presenter, 'Today', BBC Radio 4)


Hello Patrick
You've made it as logical as is possible given the circumstances but then putting commas at the end of lines in an address was 'logical'. It didn't stop them being wiped out by those who pay the piper. That's why they're not 'rules'. They're only 'conventions' or at best 'principles' or 'protocols' and as I've said and written, they're irregular rules - thus 'its, his, hers, yours, ours, theirs' . Isn't 'whose' a genitive? No apostrophe. And you could say that that there are occasions when you could say that 'these' is genitive as with, say, a situation where some teachers on a trip are trying to work out which hats belonged to which group of children. 'Whose are these hats?' And you might answer colloquially, 'These' (meaning this group owns the hats! No apostrophe)
Just think, the whole punctuation of addresses wiped out in a generation! I'll stake my hat that a good deal of apostrophe usage will fade away over the next 50 years. The example I gave on the Today programme was randomly plucked from my pocket - a highly literary map of Hampstead Heath. Most of the old apostrophes were gone. 'Keats House' 'Pryors Field' - that sort of thing, 'St Stevens Church' (and no full stop after 'St' just as there are now no full stops after 'Mr' and 'Mrs').
I'm not going to war over it. As John Humphrys remarked, I follow the patterns I was taught. Many young people don't. One day I'll be gone, and they'll be the ones around to not use the apostrophe!
very best
Michael Rosen
Children's novelist and poet, the author of 140 books. He was the fifth British Children's Laureate from June 2007 to June 2009.


I think your website is excellent. We are going to be adding external links to the online version of our style guide, which has recently been redesigned and updated, and I'd like to link to your site
David Marsh. The Guardian, UK


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.
Thank you for your time,
Kristin Stewart
Office Manager
Anacortes, WA
USA


Thanks for the lesson!
With your permission, I borrowed your lesson on apostrophes for the class I teach (graduate level, law school). It achieved a few smiles, a few thoughtful looks, and a set of papers with far fewer errors on apostrophes than classes in prior years. Thanks! -- jgr
Judy G. Russell
USA


Thank you very much for the really excellent explanation on your dreaded-apostrophe site. I already printed the pdf for my daughter, now studying English for the second year.
groetjes, regards,
Just Vecht
Zoetermeer, Holland
http://justvecht.blogspot.com/


Excellent explanation! I'll add a link to your site from my newsletter this Friday. I have over 9,000 subscribers from around the world and all are interested in learning more about language.
Thanks ... it's great to meet others who share my concern for the poor little apostrophe!
But I really like your use of just one. The simpler the better :)
Kind regards,
Jennifer


What an excellent site. It really does explain everything, and I particularly like the s's section (Cassius's book). I have as many queries about that as about almost everything else. The majority of them come from America where it seems customary to write "James' book" or "Jesus' disciples". ....
Congratulations again and best wishes - John
http://www.apostrophe.fsnet.co.uk/index.htm


Thanks so much. I think I get it. You saved the day! Andrea
Andrea Fine
Westport, Connecticut. USA


Just a note to thank you for an enlightening web site and to ask a small favour.
I teach English conversation in China and would like to use the exercise on your site in my classes, along with the answer. May I have your permission to do so please?
Also, no matter which of the links I click for the answer sheet, all I get is the standard Windows error message telling me that the page is not available, and that I should try again later.
I am sure I can correctly mark up the exercise so that the students have one to compare with their work, but I would rather look at yours to check MY work!! Could you please spare a moment to send your answer sheet as an attachment to an e-mail to ensure I have the RIGHT answer for my students?
I look forward to hearing from you.
Best regards,
Lee Fergusson
(Sussex born and bred, but despite my handicap, loved Durham the one time I visited!)
Certainly! Spread the word!
It's a PDF file and you may have the control for PDF disabled in your browser. If Internet explorer, look for a little bubble bottom right when you click the link to enable the control.
On the other hand because of your location, you may not able to re-enable it.
Attached - I hope.


Thank you, thank you - I am driven mad by the number of times I have seen "it's" when it is the possessive, and not meaning "it is" - I shall now point everyone to your site.
Jennie Cooper, UK

Thank you for your kind words - glad it helped.



Though I myself have never had difficulty understanding proper use of the apostrophe, I have many friends who do. When I'm proofreading their papers, I correct it for them but have had trouble putting into words an easy way to explain their errors. Perhaps it may be slightly easier for me as I have studied both German and Latin. I used the examples on your page and I believe they may finally understand. I was surprised at how many of my compatriots were lacking in this area of grammar, we are all college students, but I am glad that following a substandard grammar education through high school, I can finally explain this area of grammar in a way other than, "it's just right this way".
Thank you,
Matthew Murphy
Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad the website helps.


Thank you so much for your wonderful explanation of apostrophes. I was always in top set English at school and 6th Form but somehow managed to NEVER receive lessons on English Grammar. My French and German teachers often despaired upon how to teach us foreign language rules when we didnít even understand the English ones. I was taught certain rules by my mother who has an excellent command of the English language but always used the "because it just is!" method of teaching. I can now confidently explain use of apostrophes to my own children and hopefully break the cycle!
Regards
Rachel Hayes, Manchester
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you found the site useful.


I found the site very enlightening, I grew up in Wales and think that my teachers failed to undersand this subject at all.
Ed Clark


I was googling for some advice on use of the apostrophe and I found you webpage. I was happy with use for missing letters, plurals and single ownership, but confused with plural ownership (s').
It took me 2 read throughs before the penny dropped, brilliant thanks for explaining it so logically!
regs
Michael Batty
A Civil Servant!


Hi,
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge!! Iíve been outside the English classroom for over 20 years and having been an ĎAí student in English back then, I assumed English would be right where I had left it all those years ago. Boy, was I ever in for a surprise!! Your website has helped me clear those cobwebs and now Iím rearing to get back into the classroom. Keep up the good work.
Thks,
Diane McLean


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
Dave Preece
Crewe


As an ESOL teacher for many years, I always just about managed to get my non-native English speaking students to understand apostrophe use. But I find it much more difficult to explain to native English speakers who donít get it!
Your explanation is really clear and useful.
Thank you! Kate
BU - the UK's Number One New University (The Guardian University Guide 2009 & 2010)


Thank you so much for this! I came here to find the correct use of an apostrophe for possessives, and I think I've got it now, though you were a bit possessive of my time. Chaucer could've just told me to USE AN APOSTROPHE WHEN LETTERS ARE MISSING! :)
Fatima Aboo


Hi I'm a pupil at a school. You have helped me a lot with apostrophes! Thank you.
Eden Higgins


The dreaded apostrophe is an understatement. Your website has enabled me to finally - get it! Thank you.
Janie Allen


I found this fabulous page after searching for answers, no longer trusting my own capability or that of my electronic grammar checker. Thank you so much, everything is clear once again!
Lynn Wolfenden
Writer
Wigan UK


Great explanation. Have sent it to some colleagues. I get very uptight about the apostrophe and I'm sure I get it wrong sometimes, but your site makes it very simple to understand and I will be recommending to everyone
Heather Eeles


Excellent lesson on how to use these little beggars! Never understood them before and now all has become clear!.
Many thanks. Kerry Ash


I am in love with you. Thank you. That is really all I can say. Excellent site.
Heather Harrison

Thank you. I am pleased you liked the site so much it moved you to such an emotional response. :)


Brilliant and quite simple to follow and like the quiz at the end.
Clare Cornett

Thank you for your kinds words. Glad to have been of help.


Last evening having a quiet pint together ,my friend and I ,both late eighties. got onto the subject of apostrophes
The contractions gave no trouble but we could not agree on some possessive instances. We had particular fun with "Billys' balls" indicating possession and "Billy"s balls" as a rude opinion of Billy's intellect. Your site makes it abundantly clear .
I have enjoyed reading it and have directed my friend to it. Bang goes a source of argument.
Thanks for your very simple rule and explanations
Alex Woods


I am a new author, presently writing my first book. I was checking my grammar and came across your site. It's the best explanation I have ever read as to the use of apostrophes!
Well done,
Michael Shrimpton


After being out of educational for around ten years; this was a great little refresher with examples.
Thank you for taking the time to put this together.
It's (it is) very kind of you
Regards,
Mathew Shaw | Telefůnica UK Limited


This information and simple rule is brilliant, in school I never grasped the rule for the possessive apostrophe but took to the German language like a duck to water, I wish somebody had shown me the connection between the two.
Many thanks
Debbie Petch | VLA
Babcock International Group


Just to say, I found your apostrophe guide so, so useful. I'm a creative writer and I've spent quite a lot of money on three years of university. They covered punctuation in about an hour and I was still left totally confused by some of the apostrophe rules. You've just managed to explain something in ten minutes that my entire education has failed to for 18 or so years.
Thank you.
Kitty


Love it
simple
clear
concise
examples and post test are fantastic
Thank you so much
Don't know where you live I'm an Australian crone writing another book
I was never taught about the beginnings of possessive apostrophes and found this fascinating
I am having heaps of fun avoiding full stops and commas and allowing readers to pause when they choose
This came about because I didn't learn to type at school and have had several unsuccessful attempts to touch type
Recently electronic medical records were commenced for all patients and speed dictated some things had to go
I am able tolerate the loss of full stops and commas, not yet up to letting go of capitals and redundant words completely
It really is fun
Vicki Thomson, Australia

I'm glad you found the site useful. I deliberately don't say where I am because the site is relevant to English wherever it's used.


Wow that method is so simple!!! Why doesn't the rest of humankind know that? Thank you!!!!!!!
Olivia Smith


Just a quick line to thank you very much indeed for your website... I hope to tackle this issue with my Grade 7 son, who is constantly corrected for improper use of the apostrophe.
Until I read your explanation, I wasn't really sure how to help him.
Kind Regards,
Adla Jamshid


Just wanted to thank you for the hard work you've put into your website. I found it very informative and finally feel comfortable with apostrophes after all these years!
Mark Hand, UK


I remember the laborious way I was taught English Grammar over fifty years ago and the Apostrophe was always a mine field.
My adult son having never been taught English Grammar enquired as to when he should use the apostrophe and I found your fantastically helpful web site.
Thank you so much for your simple and kindly explanation.
Kind Regards,
Peggy-Ann Courtman

Thank you for your kind words. Glad you found it useful.


Thank you for your clear and useful advice about the use of the apostrophe! I am training as a proof-reader and needed to clarify when and how it should be used!
Hopefully I will now pass the exam!!
Many thanks
Sheena Speirs

Glad to be of help. Good luck with the exam.


Thanks for some good Friday education and entertainment.
I think that we need a similar web site for the hyphen; for example, " Test your new found knowledge" is probably more-correctly written, " Test your new-found knowledge."
Ian Smith, Edinburgh, Scotland.


Thank you for the really good explanation of the dreaded apostrophe. I wish I had been in your class at school
Cheers
Jillanne Gabler, Prague, Czech Republic.


Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I'm 42. I'm an author. Though I've always received As in English - I stumble when it comes to apostrophes. Your simple explanation brought me to an AH HA! moment. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
Laura Freed


Brilliant thank you
I'm a mature student studying for an MBA and have only just made sense of the apostrophe thanks to your web pages.
Why isn't it taught like this in school??!!!
Thanks
Helen Garfield, UK.
It was in mine!
Lucky you! I went to a Grammar School and it wasn't taught as simply as that!
Ha. I meant the school at which I was head teacher. Now retired.
That's cheating!! Thanks again


Rachel Frestone, India, wrote:
Q: I wanted to let you know how much I have enjoyed this resource, it is so straightforward and easy to understand! And creative, humorous, and thought-provoking at the same time.
My name is Rachel Firestone, and I work on developing English and computer education programs particularly designed for disadvantaged urban youth in India. I am an American but have been working in India for the last 3 years, and for the past one year I have been working with a small local think tank cum NGO in Delhi, India called Centre for Equity Studies. CES is both a research and action program organization, and our research primarily revolves around equity issues such as Right to Food, Right to Information, and various other issues relating to underprivileged people groups in India specifically and South Asia in general. The Dil Se Campaign represents the action programming aspect of CES, where we run residential schools for street children all across Delhi and develop various education, health, systems monitoring, and mental health programs for these schools and other organizations and institutions doing similar work. At the moment we are working with about 400 children of various ages who have come to us from the street.
I would like to include learning from your website in the English curriculum for lower primary students, specifically, in a section on teacher-support. I wanted to check with you to make sure that this is all right with you. I would obviously be citing you in the Bibliography at the back.
Please let me know your thoughts.
And again, great resource!
A: By all means. That's what it's for!
R: Thanks so much!! : )


Thank you for this clear and concise explanation for using the apostrophe. It clarifies the origins and simplifies modern day usage in an interesting way, making it easier for current students to understand. Taffy.
Lyn Hills, UK


I really welcome your excellent and instructive web article. As a trainer (business) I am frequently driven to distraction by the inability of degree-qualified individuals to grasp the importance of the position of the apostrophe. Similarly, in social surroundings, I find myself alarmed at the number of people (including many schoolteachers) who do not believe that they are mistaken, notably with such cases as "James'". Unfortunately, they often quote the very misleading site Wikipedia, which is New Zealand-based and not an arbiter of the English language.
An organisation that should be better educated is BBC Wales, where announcements abound concerning "Wales' victory" or, over the New Year, "Wales' great conversation". Surely, as the mouthpiece of a nation, they should know that it is "Wales's", by the rule that you correctly identify. It would be excellent if you were able to contact them, as well as the leading newspaper The Western Mail, to put the case for a little education of newsreaders and presenters. As you will see, I have copied this to Roy Noble, OBE, who is viewed by many as being the intellectual leader of the station and is a speaker of considerable talent.
Having got that off my chest, dare we venture into the land of correct pronunciation of the letter "Aitch"?.........
Thank you for a well-constructed answer to those who should know better.
Roger Gadd, Wales, UK
Thank you for your kind remarks. The problem about Wikipedia, useful as it often is, is that it is compiled by the public at large, many of whom are entirely ignorant of some of the niceties of English grammar.
As for the letter /H/ let's not start! Never mind missing final letters and the ubiquitous glottal stop that has replaced the letter /T/!


As an ESOL teacher for many years, I always just about managed to get my non-native English speaking students to understand apostrophe use. But I find it much more difficult to explain to native English speakers who don't get it! Your explanation is really clear and useful.
Thank you!
Kate Holmes, Bournemouth, UK
Glad you found it useful. :-)


Thank you for the apostrophe help. I have just started an access to degree course and the first piece of work was to correct several sentences using apostrophes. I wasn't totally sure of myself when using the apostrophe for possessive plurals. You have made it very clear. Once again thank you.
Kerrey Mitchell


Your theory is quite simply brilliant. I think it could really help my team of page producers to be able to use the apostrophe properly. Would you mind if I customised your lesson and adapted the exercise to suit them?
I'd give you all credit, of course!
Yours sincerely
Alister Heywood
By all means. Spread the word!


Thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge!! I've been outside the English classroom for over 20 years and having been an 'A' student in English back then, I assumed English would be right where I had left it all those years ago. Boy, was I ever in for a surprise!! Your website has helped me clear those cobwebs and now I'm rearing to get back into the classroom. Keep up the good work.
Diane McClean
Thank you. I am glad it helps.


I was googling for some advice on use of the apostrophe and I found your webpage.
I was happy with use for missing letters, plurals and single ownership, but confused with plural ownership (s'). It took me 2 read throughs before the penny dropped, brilliant thanks for explaining it so logically!
Michael Batty. UK
Thanks for your kind remarks.


Thank you so much for your wonderful explanation of apostrophes. I was always in top set English at school and 6th Form but somehow managed to NEVER receive lessons on English Grammar. My French and German teachers often despaired upon how to teach us foreign language rules when we didn't even understand the English ones. I was taught certain rules by my mother who has an excellent command of the English language but always used the "because it just is!" method of teaching. I can now confidently explain use of apostrophes to my own children and hopefully break the cycle!
Rachel Hayes, Manchester, UK
Thank you for your kind words. I am glad you found the site useful.


I just wanted to let you know that this has been a great help! I have been looking for some plain-speak information relating to the apostrophe for my son who is in year 6 and fast approaching SATs.
This was very good information and very easy to follow and understand. Thank you!
As you can tell, I couldn't help him because I failed to understand the rules of apostrophe myself - but I know them now - hopefully!
Regards
Wendy Dixon

Frauke Schmidt, Germany, wrote:
Q: I'm just writing to congratulate you on your excellent web page regarding the use of the apostrophe. I've had few problems with this myself, but there was one matter that I'd always struggled with, and that was showing possession in cases of names ending in 's', like Charles. So now I shall no longer have any problem's - only joking, I mean problems, of course - with Charles's children or Mrs Simms's oranges.
I'm going to print this page out for a friend of mine who's recently completed a "Teaching English as a Foreign Language" course, and post a link to your site on various discussion boards where I'm constantly irked by people's lack of basic grammatical understanding and application.
Now, if I could find a page that explains in simple terms why the phrase "should of" (instead of "should have", or "should've ;-)) is ludicrously illogical, I'd be completely happy! ;-)
A: This arises from poor pronunciation. The verb /to have/ is a modifier for the perfect tense, /I have gone home/ not just in English but other languages also. Sometimes the verb /to be/ is used, especially in German. From your name, are you German? The verb /to have/ is also used as a modifier in other cases such as should have, would have etc. The word /of/ is not even a verb and under no grammatical rules can be a modifier. If people spoke English properly they would not make this mistake.
I hope this helps.
R: Thanks for your reply, Patrick! I had suspected that it arises from poor pronunciation, but it just doesn't make any sense when you see it written down like that! To quote C S Lewis's wonderful book, "The Lion, the With and the Wardrobe": "What do they teach them at these schools?"
If only I could explain this (about "should of" etc.) to all those people on the forums, which I visit, who keep writing this instead of the perfectly logical "should have" etc., without offending them as their mother tongue is English. Yes, you're correct, I am German. :)
A: Just point out that you were taught English grammar while they just picked it up as they went along, bad habits and all. :-)
R: Good advice, thanks Patrick!

===


Though I myself have never had difficulty understanding proper use of the apostrophe, I have many friends who do. When I'm proof-reading their papers, I correct it for them but have had trouble putting into words an easy way to explain their errors. Perhaps it may be slightly easier for me as I have studied both German and Latin. I used the examples on your page and I believe they may finally understand. I was surprised at how many of my compatriots were lacking in this area of grammar, we are all college students, but I am glad that following a substandard grammar education through high school, I can finally explain this area of grammar in a way other than, "it's just right this way".
Thank you
Matthew Murphy


Q & A about apostrophes

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