1. jakeybum

    jakeybum Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2015
    Messages:
    154
    Likes Received:
    17

    possessive apostrophe

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by jakeybum, May 30, 2017.

    Hello, all,

    I have been studying apostrophe usage on the internet. I wanted to know whether the examples below (I made them up) are correct with regard to the possessive apostrophe usage. Please, no recasts.

    nine months' pregnancy
    two weeks' notice
    eight days' personal time remaining
    three months' worth
    five months' vacation
    three years' probation
    two hours' vacation time remaining
    three days' advance notice
    two cents' worth
    five dollars' worth
    one dollar's worth

    Thank you.
     
  2. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    3,428
    Likes Received:
    1,989
    I don't think that any of the terminating nouns are actually possessed by the preceding adjective/noun combination.

    e.g., If I am entitled to a notice period, the fact that it is of two weeks duration means that "two weeks" is in fact an adjective qualifying the noun "notice". Ditto with how many dollars equate to the worth of...whatever.
     
    joe sixpak and Myrrdoch like this.
  3. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2016
    Messages:
    1,243
    Likes Received:
    1,524
    I'd go with Shadowfax on this one.
     
    joe sixpak likes this.
  4. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The game sour like a pickle be.... Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2017
    Messages:
    6,495
    Likes Received:
    12,792
    Location:
    Rhode Island
    Agreed... I think they're adjective phrases over possessive nouns.
     
    joe sixpak likes this.
  5. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    39
    =================
    All are wrong.

    I would not use the internet as an exemplar of how to write well.
     
  6. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    16,152
    Likes Received:
    19,109
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    none of those require an apostrophe because the time period does not possess the vacation or whatever ... fred's vacation would be correct because it is a vacation being taken by fred

    and you've got the right idea about plural /singular but not applied to those examples

    smith's vacation = one man, called smith is going on vacation

    the smiths' vacation = two or more people called smith are going on vacation
     
  7. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2014
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    159
    I'd disagree with the previous responses. I believe that all of those are correct. To see why, try to imagine what you would say if the number was one. For example, you wouldn't say "one week notice", which leaves us with either "one weeks notice" or "one week's notice". But "one weeks" makes no sense - it is a plural noun, but there is only one of them. So you can see that it is the possessive, "one week's notice". The plural form is therefore "two weeks' notice", because for plural possessives we usually add an -s' (though there are exceptions, such as "children's").

    Also, don't confuse the possessive with possession. It just denotes a relationship between two things (which can sometimes be possession). If I say "that's my home town", I'm not suggesting that I own the town.

    There was a film called "Two Weeks Notice" (without the apostrophe). There was a bit of a fuss made about the grammar being incorrect as a result.
     
    jannert and xanadu like this.
  8. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2016
    Messages:
    16,152
    Likes Received:
    19,109
    Location:
    East devon/somerset border
    we need @Wreybies for a definitive answer, but I'd say fred had to give two weeks notice, for the singular week i'd probably say seven days
     
  9. xanadu

    xanadu Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    802
    Likes Received:
    728
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    I'm fairly certain the apostrophes in the OP are correct, as well, but the mass disagreement is making me question myself. I think, if you remove the apostrophe, you'd have to include the word "of" to make up for it:

    Two weeks' notice versus two weeks of notice, nine months' pregnancy versus nine months of pregnancy, three years' probation versus three years of probation, etc.
     
    jannert likes this.
  10. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 1, 2008
    Messages:
    23,746
    Likes Received:
    20,546
    Location:
    El Tembloroso Caribe
    I certainly don't think it's as easy as yes or no for all of these as a group. Context is really going to change how the syntax reads. Firstly, a lot of these would not even get an "s" of any kind, for me.

    Nine months of pregnancy is normal for humans. (it's actually closer to 10)
    It was a normal, nine-month pregnancy.

    I gave two weeks notice.
    I gave a two-week notice, as was required.

    I have eight days of personal time remaining. (feels wrong without the of)

    He ate three months' worth of chocolate in one sitting.
    He ate one month's worth of chocolate in one sitting
    He ate a three-month supply of chocolate in one sitting.

    Five months of vacation is more than anyone gets.
    A five-month vacation is too long.

    Three years of probation is a typical sentence for this crime.
    His three-year probation was finished in July.

    Two hours of vacation time remaining.
    How do you even take a two-hour vacation?

    Three days advance notice was requested.
    A three-day advance notice was requested.

    Two cents' worth is pretty much what I'm giving in this post. ;)
    My two-cent opinion is based on organic feel of the underlying syntax.

    Five dollars' worth of two-cent opinions will be given before this thread is through.
    A five-dollar opinion isn't always better than a two-cent opinion.

    One dollar's worth of anything is better than nothing.

    :)
     
    NoGoodNobu likes this.
  11. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    39
    ========

    Of course you say one week notice. You say two weeks notice because it is plural not because it is possessive.
    Week(s) is an adjective describing the length of the notice. The week(s) do(es) not own the notice.
     
  12. Storysmith

    Storysmith Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2014
    Messages:
    171
    Likes Received:
    159
    That would depend how I was using it. I would say "I have a one-week notice period". But I would also say "I handed in my one week's notice". But the existence of the "s" isn't altered by changing it to two weeks: "I have a two-week notice period" and "I handed in my two weeks' notice".
     
    jannert likes this.
  13. joe sixpak

    joe sixpak Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2017
    Messages:
    294
    Likes Received:
    39
    ==========

    What people commonly say and what is officially correct keep changing the language all the time.
     
  14. Michael Pless

    Michael Pless Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2014
    Messages:
    267
    Likes Received:
    78
    Location:
    Australia
    I was taught to use the apostrophe as per the OP and I tend to use them still, but checking The Cambridge Australian English Style Guide states that it is acceptable to drop the apostrophe from those phrases.

    (I don't know about other countries but in Australia, the apostrophe seemingly gets pressed into service as a warning that an "s" is imminent, as in pant's (trousers) and shoe's, both of which I've seen in store signs.)

    If anyone is keen, respond to this post and I'll scan in a copy of TCAESG pages and post a link to the image here.
     
  15. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2015
    Messages:
    257
    Likes Received:
    269
    The apostrophe catastrophe. I was always taught that if you can rearrange the sentence to incorporate 'of' then the apostrophe is appropriate, as 'of' indicates a relationship/association between two things. So it is a pregnancy of nine months, a notice of two weeks, the worth of 5 Earth-dollars.
     
    Storysmith and xanadu like this.
  16. Dr. Mambo

    Dr. Mambo Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    937
    Likes Received:
    956
    A warning that an "s" is imminent? What on Earth? Why?
     
  17. Michael Pless

    Michael Pless Senior Member

    Joined:
    Dec 16, 2014
    Messages:
    267
    Likes Received:
    78
    Location:
    Australia
    I don't think my dry facetiousness translated very well, but it's quite common Down Under to slip one in before almost any terminal "s". I've seen it on signs and in articles (by alleged writers!).
     
    Shadowfax likes this.
  18. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    3,428
    Likes Received:
    1,989
    That's only if the thing belongs to (is possessed by) the other thing. Possession is the specific relationship that is indicated by the apostrophe.

    The trunk of the elephant = the elephant's trunk.
    Because the trunk belongs to the elephant. It is the trunk of the elephant.

    But when did a pregnancy ever belong to nine months?
     
  19. pyroglyphian

    pyroglyphian Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2015
    Messages:
    257
    Likes Received:
    269
    Well actually I think occurrences belong to the time in which they occur, as well as to people and places. One day's time is the time belonging to one day. Nine months' pregnancy is the pregnancy belonging to nine months. In this case the period of time nine months modifies the noun pregnancy.

    ETA: One days time doesn't make sense.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
  20. Dr. Mambo

    Dr. Mambo Contributor Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2016
    Messages:
    937
    Likes Received:
    956
    Whew. You scared me for a second because I thought you were saying that TCAESG recommends using apostrophes in that way. I misread you. Australia isn't alone, though. I see it all the time in America too. 1990's. Boston B's. I eat fairly regularly at a restaurant called Ross' (pronounced Rosses). Haven't had the guts yet to tell them their name is a grammatical abomination.
     
    Michael Pless likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice