Thursday, 3 November 2011
Apostrophe’s … apostrophes’ … apostrophes?
I've lost count of the number of people who have asked me to write something about the apostrophe – largely because they get annoyed at the way other people use it incorrectly! :) So here goes – not all at once, though – treat this as part 1, to be continued.
In English the apostrophe should not be used when the word concerned is just an ordinary plural. I wish I could say "not ever ... never ... never ever", but I can't, because there are a few exceptions. For now, though, please forget that any exceptions exist, and simply avoid ever using an apostrophe with a normal plural noun, and in 99,999 percent of cases you'll be right.
So ... the following are incorrect:
1. A competition for mother's and babie's.
2. We specialise in the grooming of pet's.
3. The Smith’s are a nice family.
4. CD’s and DVD’s at sale prices.
The correct versions of these examples would be:
1. A competition for mothers and babies.
2. We specialise in the grooming of pets.
3. The Smiths are a nice family.
4. CDs and DVDs at sale prices.
There are two major correct uses of the apostrophe in English:
a. To indicate that one or more letters have been omitted from a word or phrase, as in:
1. We'll show you a better way. (Omission of "wi" from "will".)
2. It's the right thing to do. (Omission of the "i" of "is".)
b. To indicate possession, as in:
1. A man's best friend is his dog.
2. A dog's best friend is his kennel.
If the possession involves a plural noun, the apostrophe comes after the plural "s", as in:
1. Dogs' best friends are their kennels.
2. These poems' greatest merit lies in their simplicity.
3. Ladies’ Golf Day.