Originally written in 2003

Let’s face it: I know very little about grammar. Oh, I have a good grasp on the order in which words should go, but I don’t know much else. Year after year in school they taught me. And year after year I managed to pound it into my head just long enough to pass a test regarding it. Then I forgot it. I wouldn’t know a gerund* from a gerbil. But if there is one thing I know, it is how to use an apostrophe.

You’d think with that degree of ignorance, I would take a more relaxed attitude where the apostrophe is concerned. But no. It absolutely drives me nuts when people don’t use the apostrophe correctly. My high horse may be a shetland pony, but boy am I on it.

Here’s my wee apostrophe lesson.

Apostrophes are used in two contexts: possessives and contractions.

A possessive is when you are saying that a noun belongs to a pronoun. In other words, if the balloon belongs to Suzy, it is Suzy’s balloon. If the pronoun is plural (ends in “s”) the rule is not to put another “s” after the apostrophe. In other words, if the room belongs to the Senators, it is the Senators’ room, not the Senators’s room. And if you write “the Senator’s room” you are saying it belongs to only one Senator.

A contraction is when you are smooshing two words together to form one word:

  • you+are=you’re (NOT your, that is a possessive and yes that is a little confusing, but just learn it okay?)
  • are+not = Aren’t
  • they+are=they’re (not their, not there)

Probably the most confusing situation is the possessive of “it” and the contraction “it+is” I don’t know if the decision to differentiate or the decision of which word would get the apostrophe was arbitrary but differentiated they are. But here it is:

  • *it+is=it’s
  • the possessive of it is its.
    Just learn it

Okay, rant over. If you ever have an apostrophe question, feel free to ask.

*I have actually finally learned this: a gerund is a verb ending in “ing”. So now you know too.

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