Punctuation practice: Apostrophes

Apostrophes


There are two reasons for using apostrophes:

  1. The omissive apostrophe.  

Remember to use an apostrophe when letters have been missed out or words have been shortened, e.g.

I am = I’m

Does not = doesn’t

Will not = won’t

Fred is happy. = Fred’s happy.

How is your dad? = How’s your dad?


2.      The possessive apostrophe

  • When somebody owns something
         John's keys.
         The cat's tail. ( one cat)
         The cats' tails. ( more than one cat)



Task 1

Read the following text and replace the underlined expressions with shortened versions that contain apostrophes.

I do not see how we are going to get a team for tomorrow’s match.  Gill cannot play.  Sue has got an Achilles’ heel injury and will not be fit for weeks and Anne has got to go for a job interview.  It is sickening, is it not?  And they are all key players, are they not?  I would have asked Betty but no one has seen her for ages and there is nobody else I can think of.  Let us face it: it does not look as if we have got a chance of fielding a full side.




  1. Getting the possessive apostrophe wrong can make it difficult to understand what’s going on:

A mother looking after her dead son’s children has one dead son.

A mother looking after her dead sons’ children has more than one dead son.

Using the possessive apostrophe correctly:

  • If the owner is singular (one), put the apostrophe before the ‘s’ (Tom’s cat / the cat’s whiskers).
  • If the owner is plural (more than one) and ends in ‘s’, put the apostrophe after the ‘s’ (my parents’ house, a dogs’ home = a home for dogs).
  • If the plural does not end in ‘s’, put the apostrophe and then an ‘s’ (the children’s toys).
  • In longer phrases, put the apostrophe in the last word (John and Mary’s house, the leader of the opposition’s opinion).
  • If the owner’s name ends in ‘s’, put the apostrophe after the ‘s’ (James’ car / Ms Jones’ appointment).


Never, ever, ever use an apostrophe with:

  • plural nouns that are not possessive

 



  • possessive pronouns (his, hers, ours, yours, theirs)

 


  • its used as a possessive pronoun (not in the meaning of it is or it has)

 



Task 2

Rewrite the following expressions, using apostrophes to show the owners.

  1. the skin of the baby     the baby’s skin
  2. the paw of the monkey     ……………………………………………………………..
  3. the games belonging to the children   …………………………………………..
  4. a holiday lasting a week   ………………………………………………………………
  5. the trailers of the lorries   ……………………………………………………………..
  6. the votes of the people   ………………………………………………………………
  7. a speech by the chairperson of the electricity company   ……………………………………………………..
  8. the shop belonging to the baker   …………………………………………………..
  9. the father of the Prime Minister   ………………………………………………….
  10. for the sake of Pete   …………………………………………………………………….



Task 3 

Correct the apostrophe mistakes in the following sentences.  You will have to put some apostrophes in and take others out.

  1. For sale: video’s, computers’, radios at bargain price’s
  2. Theres no place like home.  
  3. Too many cooks’ spoil the broth.
  4. Whos that?  Whats’ that?  How’s that?  Wheres that hammer?
  5. Did’nt you know the supermarket is now selling mens jumpers, childrens shoes and ladies coat’s?
  6. The cars bumpers been smashed but it’s drivers not hurt.
  7. Dont you know what youre doing by now?







Adapted from M. Temple, English Homework Copymasters (ISBN 0198311974)

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