Interview with an Apostrophe


* The answer is at the end of this post.

The kids and I were walking home from school yesterday when we bumped into Mrs. Apostrophe.
Her despondent face made me ask, “What’s the matter, Mrs. A?”
“Nobody cares two hoots about me these days,” she sighed.
“Not true!” I countered. “I’m just teaching C1 and C2 how to use you correctly.”
Her face lit up. “Talk about coincidence!” she exclaimed. “Kids, let me tell you all about myself. I can be used for two reasons: to shorten words OR to show possession.”

Lesson Number 1: Apostrophes show Contraction
“What’s an example of the first?” asked C1.
Mrs. Apostrophe replied, “You just did it – contractions.”
I panicked. “Are you going into labour?” I asked. She was rather rotund, if you know what I mean…
“No, no!” scoffed Mrs. A. “I mean, your son shortened what is to what’s by taking out the ‘i’ and replacing it with me, an apostrophe.”

Use an apostrophe to contract two words into one or to show that some letters of a word are missing.

Mrs. Apostrophe whipped out her trusty little notepad from her oversized handbag and jotted down:

apostrophe contraction

If you get confused, just use the phrase in its full form to see if it makes sense:
e.g. It’s raining cats and dogs in Sydney today.
Here, the apostrophe is used to contract IT IS to It’s, so it is correct.

“I’m getting the hang of this!” said an excited C2. “What’s next? Oh, I just used two apostrophes to contract words just there…”

Lesson Number 2: Apostrophes show Possession

“That’s eeeeeasy!” expressed C2.
“My dad’s motorbike goes brumm-brumm.
Mum’s cupcake frosting is yummy.
Our garden’s lawn needs mowing…”

“A-ha! In this case, the apostrophe shows ownership: this belongs to that.

Mrs. A then put on her serious face, “Let’s take the very simple word that too many people get wrong: It’s versus Its.”

C1’s hand shot up in the air. “It’s is the shortened form of It is; therefore, it needs an apostrophe.”
“Very good!” clapped Mrs. Apostrophe, “It’s high time everyone knew this. But Its is the possessive form of It – no apostrophe needed.”
“The apostrophe – its uses are two-fold,” I said to give an example.

“Correcto! Repeat after me: if you can replace the word with it is or it has, use it’s. Otherwise, always use its.”

Lesson Number 3: Apostrophes and Plurals

“No wonder people are scared to use you – you’re a bit confusing,” said C1 rather boldly.
“They’re either too nervous to use me or use me when they really don’t need to,” agreed Mrs. A. “The other day, I went to the Farmers’ Markets and saw these signs:

apostrophe 1

“Those avocados are frickin’ cheap!” I interjected.
“Correct!” stated Mrs. A.
” Mum used a bad word,” C1 nudged C2.
“True,” replied Mrs. Apostrophe. “But if your mum had said, ‘Those avocado’s are frickin juicy’, that would have been incorrect. Avocados is plural for avocado; it does not need an apostrophe. But frickin’ does need an apostrophe because she deleted the ‘g’ at the end.”

“Now we’re getting to the tricky bit,” warned Mrs. A.
If the singular noun ends with an S, add an apostrophe S (‘s) if the extra sound is pronounced. If the extra sound is not pronounced, only add an apostrophe.

J. Lo dress

Image via Instagram

E.g.: Fitness trainer Michelle Bridges’ pregnancy photos on social media are causing quite a stir. (not pronounced)

E.g.: Did you see what Jennifer Lopez wore to her birthday party? The dress’s design left nothing to the imagination. (Yes, you can put three Ts together since the added syllable is pronounced.)

C1, who was taking this all in, came up with this example:
I have two boys named William in my class.
One William (singular)
Two Williams (plural – NO apostrophe needed)

However, consider this:
Yesterday, both the Williams’ jumpers got mixed up.

Here, the apostrophe at the end of Williams’ shows that the jumpers belonged (possession) to both the Williams.

Some cases you would know instinctively. It would have to be Girls’ Night Out or Boys’ long weekend with the apostrophe at the end to indicate there is more than one girl or boy in this shindig. Let’s face it, why would you go if it were just one person?

apostrophe plurals

Surely it can’t be only for one kid?

* The answer to the first pic is either B or C, depending on whether you have one kid (Answer C) or more (Answer B).

So tell me, does grammar and punctuation scare the heck out of you? Does a misplaced apostrophe give you heartburn? Would you like more such tutorials?


5 responses to “Interview with an Apostrophe

  1. Oh Alison, you are such a sweetheart. This article took me back to grammar class in school. Please post some more of these gems. It will help to brush up on my rusty grammar. I still have my Wren & Martin and enjoy going through it sometimes! Thanks for sharing 🙂


  2. I always mentally correct text although having said that, it’s difficult proof reading your own words. I was told that if you don’t catch an error after reading it four times, you’ll never find it.

    I taught English in Japan and it is a very difficult language to learn with all of the rules and the exceptions.


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