Tiefling's rules of the apostrophe1

1) No possessive pronoun contains an apostrophe.
2) All other possessives do contain apostrophes.
3) All contractions not used as words in their own right contain apostrophes, in place of the excised letters.
4) Plurals only contain apostrophes if they are possessives.
5) In possessives, the apostrophe goes before the s if the root does not end in s itself, and after the s if it does.

Apologies for duplication - I like my clarification best, but the more the merrier.

1 Pronounced 'Apo-strofe' for humorous effect.

Some rules for apostrophe use:

First, do not use apostrophes in plurals, unless you intend to show possession, in which case you would use it at the end. "I've got lots of problem's" is grammatically incorrect. There's no contraction or possesion here, so no apostrophe.

Second, do not use an apostrophe when you are showing possession using a gender-neutral pronoun (e.g. "it"). It is not correct to say "That stupid bird left it's feathers all over the cage floor." This spelling ("it's") is only acceptable as a contraction of the words "it" and "is". This is probably the most difficult rule to remember, unless you know why.

And finally, never use an apostrophe to form a verb in the present-tense singular. Many times I have read "Jimmy love's Janey", and unless Janey is the sole property of Jimmy love, then this is just another example of poor grammar. But then many people today don't understand the parts of speech either.

Thank's for you're time!

One thing that (excuse me) has been covered is the use of the apostrophe to indicate plural amounts of letters and numbers.

"Bs" or "B's."
"1980s" or "1980's"

Unfortunatly, this matter in a flux, and is really a question of style based on appearance and personal preference. There are conflicting reports on proper usage in this matter from several reliable sources. There is one rule that seems to be constant, however. If the letter (or group of letters) is an S or ends in S, it is proper to use the apostrophe to pluralize it, such as: "There are five S's in that word" and not "There are five Ss in that word".

It is also generally considered improper to use an apostrophe to pluralize abbreviations such as CD. This, however, also is conflicted.

The bottom line? Do it however you want to (or whichever way your teacher wants for assignments).

My python boot was too tight,
I couldn't get it off last night,
A week went by, and now it's July,
I finally got it off and my girlfriend cried...

A seminal album by Frank Zappa from March 1974. Available from Ryko, on a single CD with Over-nite Sensation.

Popularly remembered for the silly and scatological Don't Eat the Yellow Snow, Apostrophe' is a trove of virtuoso musicianship, with smoking drums and crackling horns. Some of Zappa's greatest talents were as bandleader and arranger, and despite his reputation as a weirdo he demanded the best from his musicians, and got it.


  • Don't Eat the Yellow Snow
  • Nanook Rubs It
  • St.Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast
  • Father O'Blivion
  • Cosmik Debris
  • Excentrifugal Forz
  • Apostrophe'
  • Uncle Remus
  • Stink-Foot

    Jim Gordon (drums)
    John Guerin (drums)
    Aynsley Dunbar (drums)
    Ralph Humphrey (drums)
    Jack Bruce (bass)
    Erroneous (bass)
    Tom Fowler (bass)
    Frank Zappa (bass, lead vocals, guitar)
    George Duke (keyboards, background vocals)
    Don "Sugar Cane" Harris (violin)
    Jean-Luc Ponty (violin)
    Ruth Underwood (percussion)
    Ian Underwood (saxophone)
    Napoleon Murphy Brock (saxophone, background vocals)
    Sal Marquez (trumpet)
    Bruce Fowler (trombone)
    Ray Collins (background vocals)
    Kerry McNabb (background vocals)
    Susie Glower (background vocals)
    Debbie (background vocals)
    Lynn (background vocals)
    Ruben Ladron De Guevara (background vocals)
    Robert Camarena (background vocals)
    Tony Duran (rhythm guitar)

  • Near my place of work lies a little city square, the longtime center of a neighborhood. The typical neighborhood businesses have long since vanished, replaced by bars, clubs, restaurants, and other eateries.

    At one end of the square is a bar, a little more like a typical neighborhood watering hole. As I occasionally walk by there, I notice a tribute to a local baseball player, made from construction paper letters, strung up in the front window:


    Every time I walk by this window, I am torn between the desire to run into the bar and tear the apostrophe off the string (probably resulting in my arrest), and wonder at the fact that some person lovingly cut that apostrophe out of construction paper, filled in the center with black magic marker, and glued it to the string.

    Invariably, a great sadness comes over me.

    The apostrophe did not appear as a mark of punctuation in English until the seventeenth century. Its function then was to signal that a letter had been omitted. For centuries, the English had used the suffix -es to show possession, e.g. a birdes nest, a knightes armour. Over time, the e was dropped -- thus, a birds nest, a knights armour -- and, as happens so often in English, the word order within the sentence indicated the meaning quite satisfactorily.

    But seventeenth century English began, rather pedantically, to use the apostrophe to mark the ommission of the letter e, not only in the possessive case, but also in verb forms such as think'st or march'd when the e was no longer sounded. So, our two main uses of the apostrophe -- to show possession and contraction -- both had their origin in a need to mark omitted letters.

    A*pos"tro*phe (#), n. [(1) L., fr. Gr. a turning away, fr. to turn away; from + to turn. (2) F., fr. L. apostrophus apostrophe, the turning away or omitting of a letter, Gr. .]

    1. Rhet.

    A figure of speech by which the orator or writer suddenly breaks off from the previous method of his discourse, and addresses, in the second person, some person or thing, absent or present; as, Milton's apostrophe to Light at the beginning of the third book of "Paradise Lost."

    2. Gram.

    The contraction of a word by the omission of a letter or letters, which omission is marked by the character ['] placed where the letter or letters would have been; as, call'd for called.


    The mark ['] used to denote that a word is contracted (as in ne'er for never, can't for can not), and as sign of the possessive, singular and plural; as, a boy's hat, boys' hats. In the latter use it originally marked the omission of the letter e.

    The apostrophe is used to mark the plural of figures and letters; as, two 10's and three a's. It is also employed to mark the close of a quotation.


    © Webster 1913.

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