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Following on from my look at collective nouns, I thought I’d blog about that tricky little critter, the apostrophe.

Apostrophe Rules

Many people are confused when it comes to the use of this punctuation mark. By following the guidelines below you can gain an understanding of when and why the use of an apostrophe is applicable. There are two main reasons to use an apostrophe:

To show possession

To show an omission

Using an apostrophe to show possession

An apostrophe can be used to show that a person, a thing or an object belongs or relates to someone or something. For example, an apostrophe can be used to write Tom’s party or last year’s weather, instead of the party of Tom or the weather of last year.

Below are some simple guidelines to explain the use of apostrophes to indicate possession.

The majority of personal names and singular nouns

To indicate possession with personal names and singular nouns you should add an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’.

We met at Tom’s barbeque

The elephant’s trunk was long and grey

This morning’s weather was awful.

The use of an apostrophe when a personal name ends with ‘-s’

You should include an apostrophe and the letter ‘s’ with a personal name that ends with ‘-s’ when it would naturally be pronounced with a extra ‘s’ when spoken out loud.

He left to go to James’s party before 7pm.

Thomas’s bus was late, so he would struggle to make it in to work on time.

Chris’s family and friends had organised a surprise party for his birthday.

It should be noted that there are some exceptions to this rule when it involves the name of an organisation or place. Below is an example.

St Thomas’ Hospital

If you are unsure whether to include an apostrophe or how to spell a name, you should look up how the name is spelled in an official place, such as an organisation’s website or directory.

If a personal name ends with the letter ‘s’ but is not naturally spoken with a extra ‘s’, you should not include any extra letters and simply insert an apostrophe after the ‘s’.

Connors’ homework was to be handed in tomorrow morning.

Plural nouns that end with the letter ‘s’

if a plural noun ends with a ‘s’, you should insert an apostrophe after the ‘s’.

The old stately home was converted into a private boys’ school.

He would be flying to South America in under two weeks’ time.

My job was to walk the dog and muck out the pigs’ sty.

Using an apostrophe with plural nouns that do not end with the letter ‘s’

For plural nouns that do not end with a ‘s’, you should include an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’.

The family’s pet dog was missing for one week.

Apostrophes should not be applied to signify possession when using a possessive pronoun.

His, hers, ours, yours, theirs

When a possessive determiner is used an apostrophe is also not required.

His, hers, its, our, your, their

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