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*Asterisk = examples of errors or poor constructions*.

Student Learning: Grammar

Using apostrophes - Lesson one

  1. 1.1 Belonging to:

    In the simplest of terms, the apostrophe is used to identify ownership or belonging to [someone or something].

First identify the victim's fingerprints from inside the suspect's car.

The protesters' voices were drowned out by the sound of the gunfire.

The children's laughter filled the theatre.

preview of BBC's apostrophe game

This is fun! Try the BBC's apostrophe game: (→hover for preview←) Who owns what game (not iPad friendly).

  1. 1.2 Apostrophes used to mean 'the [something] of [something else]':

    Notice that the examples so far have been about physical things. But the same grammar applies to abstract ideas or academic concepts too. In these cases, rather than ownership, you can think of the relationship as [ x ] as associated with [ y ], or perhaps [ x ] as pertaining to the discussion of [ y ].
    We wonder if it wouldn't be better, and more elegant, simply to write the [ y ] of [ x ]. Would you agree?

    Look at how the following examples manage this:

He suggests that luck's relevance to morality is only in the evidence it provides of what judgement a 'moral agent' deserves.

Existential intelligence is a skill concerned with an individual's ability to analyse life's meaning and issues of human existence.

A comparison is provided here between modern democracies and the democracies of Plato's time.

  1. 1.3 Possessive adjectives - his, her, their, my, your, its, our

    Words such as his, her, my ... are words which already suggest that something belongs to someone (or something) and so do not need an apostrophe:

The pick-pocket placed his hand inside the pocket of the coat that Julie was wearing and drew out her keys.

They pooled together their money and bought her house.

Note: One / One's
One should always mind one's manners when in polite company.