GRAMMAR VERIFY: Let's Get The Apostrophe S Rule Straightened Out

Verify: Use of 's

VERIFY QUESTION

After VERIFYING how to spell canceled (with one l or two), a viewer asked us to VERIFY another grammar inquiry you might have been breaking for years.

Beth Miller from Guilford County asked, "Why don't you do a VERIFY on the use of apostrophe s? I see incorrect usage all the time!"

Beth, we do, too.

VERIFY SOURCE

To VERIFY, Good Morning Show anchor Meghann Mollerus used her own journalism and English expertise, as she has a bachelor of journalism from the Missouri School of Journalism. 

Our second source to crosscheck was the grammar website GrammarBook.com.

VERIFY PROCESS

CONTRACTIONS

You know you use apostrophe s ('s) to make a contraction. For example, you would turn let us into let's and he is into he's.

POSSESSIVE OF SINGLE NOUN

You also use apostrophe s ('s) to show possession of a single noun. 

Example: I like my friend's coat. 

Friend is singular, so the apostrophe goes before the s. 

POSSESSIVE OF SINGLE NOUN ENDING IN S

If you have a single word that ends in s, still use apostrophe s ('s). 

Example: I like my boss's coat.

Friend is singular, so the apostrophe goes before the s. 

POSSESSIVE OF PLURAL NOUN

But what if you have two friends and like both of their coats? You would put the apostrophe after the s (s').

Example: I like my friends' coats. 

POSSESSIVE VS. PLURAL

Here's the tricky part of the rule. For some reason, people confuse making words possessive with making words plural.

Incorrect example: Happy Valentine's Day from the Smith's.

You do not need an apostrophe before the s, because nothing is possessive (unless you're saying Happy Valentine's Day from John Smith's dog). See?

You simply need to make Smith plural, because there is more than one Smith. 

Correct example: Happy Valentine's Day from the Smiths.

A simple s makes this plural. No apostrophe is needed.

If your last name already ends with s, no problem. Just make it plural, too.

Correct example: Happy Valentine's Day from the Molleruses.

We added es to Mollerus to make it plural.

Help VERIFY

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Copyright 2017 WFMY


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