The University of Waikato - Te Whare Wānanga o Waikato
Student Learning
Waikato Home Waikato Home > Student Life > Student Learning > Grammar
Staff + Student Login


Hover over the grey underlined or bold words for pop-up notes.


*Asterisk = examples of errors or poor constructions*.

Student Learning: Grammar

Using apostrophes - Lesson three

  1. 3.1 Apostrophes at a distance:

    Sometimes apostrophes occur in such a way as to indicate belonging, or ownership of something, identified at another place in the sentence or paragraph.

It used to be Darryl's car but now it is Neil's.

Oliver Cromwell's was the most popular trophy on display that day.

The current pass rate is higher than last year's .

  1. 3.2  Plural ownership:

    When you are wanting to indicate the ownership of more than one person you need only use the apostrophe on the second name. This depends a little on the relationship of those involved (or the association between them that we make intuitively).

We can meet at my mum and dad's house.

National and Labour's education policy differs only in degree.

We had accidentally taken John and Margaret's seats on the train.

However, if there is no obvious or intuitive relationship between the two people or objects in question put an apostrophe after both names.

The most visited paintings in the Louvre are Picasso's and van Gogh's.

  1. 3.3 Dates used as describing words

    There are variations and stylistic preferences when using apostrophes with dates, requiring a little thought.

The colours in 1970s movies tend to be less distinct than in later decades.

The colours in '70s movies tend to be less distinct than in later decades.

While is is easily arguable that the movies belong to the 1970s and so need an apostrophe, popular usage treats this differently and 1970 is used to describe the movies. See this happen also in the following instances: teachers college, a parents evening at school.

However, you might use an apostrophe when talking about a specific year.

The songs at the top of 1978's music charts was only lightly influenced by punk.

Hover here for important spelling note: