apostrophes and possessives and plurals: oh my!

Subject: apostrophes and possessives and plurals: oh my!
From: DURL <durl -at- BUFFNET -dot- NET>
Date: Fri, 19 Dec 1997 10:50:07 -0500

Since it came up...
In American English, there are only two uses
for apostrophes:
to indicate that letters have been ommitted in a contraction, and to
show possession. (Contraction examples: it's = it is; can't = cannot;
goin' home = going home)...(Possessive examples: Mary's post, Eric's
rules, the cat's fur, the Post's stupid article)..
Almost all authorities allow or recommend apostrophes for a third
use: to
form the plural
when it helps to increase sense. (Example:"I got all D's on my tests,"
not "I got all Ds on my tests.")
Also, there's (= there is) an increasing tendency in usage (and in some
authorities)to use the
apostrophe to
form the plural in situations like this: 1960's (instead of 1960s); PC's
(instead of PCs)...
The confusion comes in with homophones that are similar: there's
and theirs, it's and its; you're and your. The confusion is compounded by
the fact that theirs and its are possessives, which is generally a
situation calling for an apostrophe (see the examples, above). To make it
even more fun, these possessive pronouns end in "s", which adds to the
impulse to use the apostrophe (as in Mary's post, Eric's rules, etc.)
The reason you don't add an apostrophe with possessive pronouns is
that the pronoun itself is, by definition, possessive: The bar lost _its_
license; the problem is _theirs_, not _ours_.
One reason it's a common problem, I think, is that it is
confusing--one of those things that, the more you think about it, the less
sure you are, and English has its idiosyncrasies! Your boss's confusion is
understandable...and let's not start on boss's and bosses!


Mary Durlak Erie Documentation Inc.
East Aurora, New York (near Buffalo)
durl -at- buffnet -dot- net

http://www.documentation.com/, or http://www.dejanews.com/

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