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  • Is it a flying comma, or a quotation mark chopped in half?

  • Either way, you may already be well-versed in how to use the apostrophe, but here's a quick refresher on its usage.

  • The apostrophe can be used in three ways: to mark possession, to mark contraction, to mark the plural of single letters.

  • Most of the time, if you see an apostrophe hovering helpfully near a word, it's trying to mark possession or contraction.

  • First, let's look at how the apostrophe marks possession.

  • As you can see, the placement of this punctuation mark can really change the meaning of a sentence.

  • "Those robots in the sand are my sister's."

  • "Those robots in the sand are my sisters'."

  • "Those robots in the sand are my sisters."

  • When showing possession, the apostrophe belongs next to the noun that owns or possesses something.

  • The noun can be singular or plural.

  • Proper nouns work, too.

  • So if Lucy needs to get her robots under control before they cause mayhem, those dangerous creatures would be "Lucy's robots."

  • But what if Lucy was Lucas?

  • Would we write "Lucas' robots" or "Lucas's robots"?

  • And what if Lucas gave his robots to the Robinsons family?

  • Would it be "The Robinsons' robots," or "The Robinsons's robots"?

  • The truth is, even grammar nerds disagree on the right thing to do.

  • The use of 's after a proper noun ending in s is a style issue, not a hard and fast grammar rule.

  • It's a conundrum without a simple answer.

  • Professional writers solve this problem by learning what's considered correct for a publication, and doing that.

  • The important thing is to pick one style and stick with it throughout a piece of writing.

  • One more wrinkle.

  • Certain pronouns already have possession built in and don't need an apostrophe.

  • Remembering that will help you avoid one of the trickiest snags in English grammar: its vs. it's.

  • "It's" only take an apostrophe when it's a contraction for "it is" or "it has."

  • If you can replace "it's" with one of those two phrases, use the apostrophe.

  • If you're showing possession, leave it out.

  • Otherwise, contractions are pretty straightforward.

  • The apostrophe stands in for missing letters, and lets common phrases squash into a single word.

  • In rare cases, you can have a double contraction, though those generally aren't accepted in writing, with the exception of dialogue.

  • So it's possessive, it's often followed by s's, and it's sometimes tricky when it comes to its usage.

  • It's the apostrophe.

Is it a flying comma, or a quotation mark chopped in half?

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B2 US TED-Ed apostrophe possession lucas contraction lucy

【TED-Ed】When to use apostrophes - Laura McClure

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    Ann posted on 2020/09/30
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