- Contractions quiz
- Possessives quiz
- Possessive determiners and pronouns quiz
- Confusing words quiz
- Apostrophes quiz
- Annotated rant
- 2 Vocabulary quizzes
- Lots of links
When you see this button: ? mouse over it for instructions how to click and drop
1. Do use an apostrophe to show where letters have been omitted (left out)
This is mostly used in contractions.
Ex 1. ContractionsType in the contractions for these phrases. Keep going till you get them all right.
Note that in the two questions marked (***) there are two possibilities, but I'm afraid the program will only accept one.
|(you are)||late!||(you are not)||early (***)|
|(it is)||very kind of you||(we have)||eaten, thank you|
|(they are)||Danish||(they are not)||Swedish (***)|
|(they had)||just arrived||(they had not)||eaten yet|
But the apostrophe can also be used to indicate popular or dialect forms
Ex 2. Dialect and popular speech forms
- Click here to load words into the boxes
- Look at the model sentences
- Add apostrophes to replace the missing letters, where appropriate
- Then check
2. Do use an apostrophe with the letter 's' to form the possessives of nouns.
Ex 3 possessive 's'Use your instinct and type (or copy and paste) the words in bold into the boxes, adding an apostrophe in the correct place, and also an 's' where necessary. Check your answers as you go along. Just keep trying and checking your answers till you get them all right. Then complete the rules with the drop-down selects and check.
|1.||With singular nouns:|
|We have a dog, and it has a bone. This is the bone.|
|2.||With regular plural nouns (i.e. ending in -s):|
|We have some cats, and they have some toys. These are the toys.|
|3.||With irregular plural nouns (e.g. men, women, children):|
|We have two small children, and this is their room. This is the room.|
|4.||With compound nouns:|
|This the house of my brother-in-law. This is my house.|
|5.||In cases of joint possession (when two or more people own something together):|
|That house at the bottom of the hill belongs to Jack and Jill. That's house.|
|Rule: add to|
|6.||But when they own some things separately:|
|Jack and Jill are a two-car family. Jack has his own car, and Jill has her own car. Those are cars parked over there.|
|Rule: add to|
|7.||Where a noun ends with the sound /s/ or /z/:|
|My colleague James has an office next to that of the boss. My colleague office is next to the office.|
|Rule: add But see note below|
|8.||Where we have the plural of a family name ending with the sound /s/ or /z/:|
|Our neighbours are the Joneses. That's Mr. Jones, Mrs. Jones and all the little Joneses. 'Look at the new car. Can't we have one like that?'|
|Note that other plurals of family names (e.g. the Browns, the Smiths) are simply treated like normal regular plurals.|
Note - nouns ending with the a sibilant - the sound /s/ or /z/: there are some differences in opinion about this one, and Wikipedia devotes a whole section to it. Classical and biblical names are not usually given an extra 's', simply an apostrophe. Some authorities say you don't need the extra 's' if you think it makes the possessive sound awkward. This is really beyond the scope of this post, so if you're concerned, I would check out Wikipedia.
1. Don't use an apostrophe with the standard plural 's'.
not banana's, mango's and apple's
2. Don't use an apostrophe with a possessive
Ex 4. Possessive determiners and possessive pronounsComplete this table
Ex. 5 Confusing words
|Look over , Jack and Jill, next door neighbours. And taking new puppy for a walk. No, wrong, not Jack and Jill. And that puppy isn't , is a labrador. This one looks as though lost owner. Look, coming over to check us out. Let's see what it says on collar. Oh, are some people coming up the road who look as though looking for something. Perhaps owners.|
Summary so far
Two simple do's and two simple don'ts
Yet this is where most mistakes are made.
But there's one more do
There's another slightly more controversial do - the p's and q's of dotting the i's and crossing the t's
Ex 6 Abbreviations, acronyms etcUse your instinct. Write the words in brackets into the boxes, adding an apostrophe where you think there may be some confusion.
|1.||Single letters in lower case:||There are three (ws) in 'www'|
|2.||Short words in upper case:||We bought three (CDs).|
|3.||Decades:||I love the music of the (1960s)|
|4.||Short words in lower case:||Both her (exs) came to her wedding|
Discussion 1 - The purists
- Most authorities accept using an apostrophe with single lower case letters:
You should remember to mind your p's and q's ?
It's time to dot the i's and cross the t's ?because ps and qs and is and ts could be confusing
- but not with capital letters:
I've just bought three CDs (not CD's - here there is no possible confusion)
- and not with decades (but remember we can use the apostrophe of omission at the beginning):
I love the music of the 1960s / the '60s (not 1960's or '60's)
- Many authorities don't like apostrophes with these - short words in lower case - but many writers still prefer to use them. So the jury is out on this one. See discussion below.
Discussion 2 - The moderates
Ex 7. Putting it all together - final punctuation exercise, but see below for some vocabulary exercises.
- Click on to load the words into the boxes for the first time.
- Keep checking as you go along.
- Add apostrophes where necessary, but nothing else.
- But on two occasions you will also have to add an 's'
- And on a few occasions you will need to take away an apostrophe, or change the position of an apostrophe.
- Use the strict (purist) rules regarding small words, abbreviations and decades.
- If you mess it up, click on one of the 'Check / Load' buttons to reload the text. The boxes you have got correct will be marked in green and won't be altered. But the whole box must be correct.
- If you want to start all over again, click on 'Load / Reload'.
A little history: of the apostrophe, and of greengrocers
So is it dos and don'ts, or maybe do's and don'ts, or even do's and don't's?
- "the dos and don'ts" - 6,420,000
- "the do's and don'ts" - 5,400,000
- "the do's and don't's" - 67,000
Google NGram ViewerBut suddenly it's got more interesting. In December Google released a program, developed by scientists at Harvard, which instantly tells you how often a word or phrase has occurred in the corpus of books they have digitised, or at least some of it.
And some fascinating social information it gives us, such as how and when the expression flight attendant has replaced air stewardess, or that the expression 'by jingo' (the source of the word jingoism), which I'd always associated with the First World War, was actually at a low in 1914, having had a huge peak in about 1870. The word jingoism itself, not surprsingly, crops up most often at times of war, most recently during and just after the Falklands / Malvinas 'conflict' (as the government of the day liked to call it).
Admittedly this program does not have the authority or the fine tuning available to users of, for example, the British National Corpus. But for normal mortals like me, it is incredibly easy to use, and also great fun.
So I may be wrong, but it looks as though I'm in good company. On the other hand, the same tool shows that CDs,MAs and 1960s are much preferred to CD's,MA's and 1960's. So better stick with the purists on that one.
And now here cometh the rant
Of apostrophe abuse and catastrophes and the like
A little perspective
The Apostrophe Protection Society (APS)
Well, they do at least give you some rules, but they show their true colours on their 'FAQ' page:
- Inanimate objects can't own anything
The colour of the car, not the car's colour
They're really out on a limb on this one; even the Chicago Manual of Style allows a car to 'have possessions'.
- Is it of (possession) or for
The APS says men's wear doesn't belong to men (it belongs to the shop), so we should use for.
Clothing for men (so some department stores just opt for menswear instead).
- 'Never, ever use an apostrophe with plurals', not even with ps and qs (even though nearly all authorities allow p's and q's). I wonder why they don't even mention dotting the is and crossing the ts (just see how strange that looks without apostrophes)
Practise the vocabulary from this posting
Vocabulary 1 - expressions and adjectives ?
|1.||hot under the collar||a)||not under control|
|2.||the jury is out||b)||even though something suggests the opposite|
|4.||out of hand||d)||evil and cruel|
|5.||snide||e)||clumsy, not comfortable, difficult to deal with|
|6.||at odds with||f)||criticizing somebody/something in an unkind and indirect way|
|7.||not withstanding||g)||opinion is divided, a decision has not been reached|
|8.||crop up||h)||not supported by other people|
|9.||awkward||i)||in disagreement with|
|10.||errant||j)||angry or embarrassed|
|11.||a damn sight||k)||happen, occur|
|12.||out on a limb||l)||doing something that is wrong; not behaving in an acceptable way|
Vocabulary 2 - nouns ?
Apostrophes with inanimate objects
- Apostrophe abuse
- Apostrophe catastrophes
- Apostrophe Protection Society UK
- The Dreaded Apostrophe - Does give rules, or rather one rule (they have an interesting theory here), and some Q and As, but a bit rigid
Do's and don'ts
- Common Grammar Errors - OK, this nearly convinces me, but not quite.
- USA Today They write 'do's and don'ts'
- The Arrogant Polyglot Another rant, but arguing against my point of view. Forevermore, I shall scold all that attempt any form that departs from the very simple, very elegant Dos and Don'ts.I am duly scolded, for evermore. But that won't stop me writing it.
Professor David Crystal's approach to punctuation
- David Crystal Punctuation is no place for zero tolerance (The Guardian)
- War of Words Short documentary on Crystal vs Truss, well worth watching.
- DC Blog Crystal replies to a reader on his blog
- BBC Newsnight, with Jeremy Paxman Interviewed with David Crystal
- Daily Telegraph - Half of Britons struggle with the apostrophe
- The English Blog - developing that story
- Song for teaching the apostrophe