1. firefox
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    firefox Banned

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    Proper use of apostrophe?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by firefox, Jun 29, 2010.

    Some books/sites/language tutors assert that an apostrophe is used for contraction of is,are,am,was,were,has,have etc, such as,

    he is = he's
    she is = she's
    they are = they're

    others imply that they are only used to show possession, such as

    the boy's bike
    my mother's stove

    and some even imply that they are used as both.

    i'm confused, which one is true? or is this another US/British english?

    please advise. thank you.
     
  2. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hello firefox - both US and British English (and indeed all forms of English) use the apostrophe in both the scenarios you describe. An apostrophe literally means that what is being referred to is absent. In grammar this means that some letters are missing, either by contraction or by possession (the boy his bike). There is also a third use which you find more about at the below link.

    Please take a look at this post I put together some time ago, which hopefully will help you along. Oh, and I do now concede the part discussed with mammamia at the end.

    http://www.writingforums.org/showthread.php?t=6265&highlight=apostrophe
     
  3. firefox
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    firefox Banned

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    thank you, Gannon :)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    For the most common pronouns. the apostrophe is NOT used in the possessive form, in contrast to nouns. For these pronouns, an apostrophe is only used to form a contraction.

    However, some less common pronouns do take an apostrophe for both the possessive form and for contractions:
     
  5. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's actually only the 'personal' pronouns that don't take an apostrophe, cog... rreally nothing to do with being 'common' or not... others like 'its':

    ours
    hers
    theirs

    'one' and 'someone' are not 'personal' pronouns, but 'indefinite' pronouns, thus need that ' ...
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    But that is not entirely accurate, because you and your can be either definite or indefinite pronouns, depending on the context. But yours never takes the apostrophe, even when used in an indefinite context.

    I opted to leave out the complexity of definite/indefinite pronouns in favor of just saying the most commonly used pronouns don't use the apostrophe for the posessive, but the less common ones do.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'yours' is just another 'personal' pronoun... i merely forgot to add it to the list, but did not say those were the only 'others'... did i?...
     
  8. Myzzie
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    Myzzie New Member

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    If you talk about the car from your boss, you talk about your boss' car, isn't it?
     
  9. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you manage to get to the status of G B Shaw, you can omit them entirely :p
     
  10. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's a marginal case. Strictly it should be "your boss's car", but that "ss's" does look ugly, doesn't it? I understand that the Chicago Manual of Style would allow "your boss' car" as an alternative, but the extra "s" would be pronounced anyway so I would include it.

    The possessives of names ending in "s" is a challenge. According to Fowler, they used to be formed with just an apostrophe (Jesus' love [1], Socrates' teaching) but now they always take apostrophe-s if single-syllable and usually take it if more syllables ("Jones's desk") except in "poetic and reverential contexts" when the old form with just the apostrophe is commonly still used. I suspect that it's from seeing things like "Socrates'" that you think "boss'" is usual.

    [1] Although the original Hebrew/Aramaic name didn't end in "s", so all those old books and hymns with "Jesu's love" are more etymologically accurate. Blame the Greeks.
     
  11. JTheGreat
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    JTheGreat Contributing Member

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    Really? I always thought that singular nouns or pronouns that end in "S" use the apostrophe and additional "S", while plurals do not. For example, we'd say, "Tess's bike", but if we were referring to Tess's family we'd say, "the Jones' bikes". Sorry for stealing the Jones thing, my mind is still warming up for the day.

    As with the its/it's rule, if the word "who" is possessive (sp?), we'd use "whose". Like, "This is Tess, whose bike is bright red." Whereas when it's a contraction of "who is". In that case we'd say, "This is Tess, who's walking today instead of using her bike."
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's one of those rules that as been shifting over the last few decades.

    I still tend to go visit the boss' house rather than the boss's house, but the latter is now the preferred form. When I was growing up, the preferred form was to leave off the s after the apostrophe rather than piling them up like cordwood.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    As Cog says, it's one of those things that's changing. Fowler (2nd ed, 1965) says that "Plurals of proper names ending in s form their possessives in the same way as ordinary plurals (the Joneses' home, the Rogerses' party)." The first of those still looks perfectly normal to me, the second looks odd and I'd want to write the Rogers' party, as I'd guess you would. If you can provide me with any official justification for my position, it would be most welcome! :rolleyes:
     
  14. Victorian girl
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    Victorian girl Member

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    Would this be right in the way of possession?

    Doras` as opposed to Dora`s (because surely Dora`s = Dora is?).
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    In a word, no.
     
  16. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    That would mean you had more than one Dora. And that you were looking at the apostrophe in a mirror for some reason.

    You are right that "Dora's" could mean "Dora is" as well as meaning "belonging to Dora", but context should always make it clear which is which.
     
  17. Victorian girl
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    Victorian girl Member

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    Thanks Digitig.
     

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