This is your brain; this is your brain trying to figure out apostrophes

This semester, for some reason, I have worked with several students struggling
with a specific grammar problem. I will be honest and say that I do not normally
feel very comfortable working through grammar with students. However, this
seemed like a problem that I could easily help with. Then I had a great idea:
Write a blog about it hoping that it would help other people not coming into the
writing center.

Apostrophes. When I was a kid I actually had problems saying this word let
alone knowing how to use them. Since then I have learned how to say them and how
to use them. For many students coming into the writing center, however, this can
be something they constantly struggle with. There are a few different uses for
apostrophes:

Showing possession.

Examples:

  • The girl’s house is over there.
  • This essay is that student’s writing.

Often times we think that if we add an “s” to the end of a word we need to add
an apostrophe. When making something plural, there is not a need for an
apostrophe. The only time it needs to be used when adding an s is if it is
explaining or showing that something belongs to, or is owned by, someone or
something. Here are some examples of situations that do not need an apostrophe.

  • The girls live over there.

- Students need to spend more time studying.

One of the hardest parts of possession is when you have a plural word that also
is showing possession. We call this plural possessive and this is one of the
hardest situations in which we use an apostrophe.

For plural possessive it is almost always written with an s and then the
apostrophe (“s’”). There are a few exceptions to this rule but I will get into
that later.

Examples:

  • My parents’ car is really small.
  • The singers’ voices were very loud. (Singers is a plural word already. But
    we are showing that the voices belong to the singers. To show this possession,
    we write “singers’”.)

Another way that we can write this sentence without the apostrophe is to say:

  • The singers are very loud. (There is nothing in this sentence the singers
    have possession of, so there is not a need for the apostrophe.)

When writing a proper noun (names, places):

- Laura’s boyfriend is really nice.

This is true even when the name ends with an “s”:

  • Silas’s hats are super fly.1
  • That is Mr. Jones’s dog.

Writing Contractions.

Contractions are two words merged into one. Common contractions include: Won’t,
Can’t, I’ll, I’ve, and I’d.

The easiest way to explain a contraction is to say that the apostrophe stands in
for whatever letters are omitted when the words are merged.

Example: I have = I’ve. (We removed the “ha” and replaced it with the
apostrophe.)

We have to write it this way no matter what kind of contraction it is, or how
many letters we remove.

When we write “I’d” we are saying “I would.” In the contraction we are
missing four letters, but the apostrophe represents them all.

Examples:

  • I’d like to invite you over for dinner.
  • They’re trying out for the cheerleading team.

Once you get all of these nuances down as a writer, writing with them becomes second nature. I know this seems lik*e a lot of hard information, but there are many resources available (online and also in the writing center) that you can use as you’re writing. Whether you have questions on how to use commas, interesting ways to fix run-ons, or more information on apostrophes, you can find them online or by visiting us in the comfy, cozy writing center.

Helpful links!!!!!!!!:


  1. The only two exceptions to this rule are when writing Moses or Jesus in the
    plural possessive. For both of them, you simply write:

     

    • Jesus’ parables are still told today.
    • Moses’ mother put him in a basket.
Last Updated: 3/12/2015 3:20 PM