Apostrophe usage

Micmanz Language building series

This series is published in the tuesday issues of Deccan Chronicle .

we have spoken about apostrophes many , many times and yet even as we read about them and make a mental note about their use, we still end up making mistakes.

Let’s take a look at these sentences…

  • Last week the temperature was in the high 30’s
  • Seema told us that dog’s bark when they see an intruder
  • When the bell ring’s  please pick up your books and leave the class

What do you find similar in all the above sentences? The apostrophe is not required. Now let us see why. You can use the apostrophe for plurals of words and letters but not for plurals of numbers, dates or abbreviations.

Similarly, in the second sentence — dog’s bark should not be mistaken for a possessive noun. The same rule applies for third person verbs. In the last sentence rings is a verb.

Now look at this sentence: This is book is her’s. Hers is a possessive pronoun so leave out the apostrophe. You may use the apostrophe when you want to indicate possessives like Seema’s house is the blue one.
Always use s apostrophe for possessives of plural nouns. The exception to this rule is plurals that do not end in s.

This is a very important rule. So you cannot say — Ramesh was the peoples’ choice for head boy. Put the apostrophe before the s (people’s). Always use one apostrophe for joint possession and separate ones for individual possession.

Example (joint posses sion): Ramesh and Seema’s mother.
Example (individual possession): Seema’s and Rajan’s essays won accolades.

However in the latter case rephrase the sentence as it would sound better to say — Essays by Seema and Rajan won accolades.


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