Friday, August 26, 2011

Uses of the Apostrophe

The apostrophe sign is used for two different purposes, contraction and possession.

Here are some examples of contraction, where the apostrophe takes the place of the missing letter or letters:
  • Rama didn't stop searching until he found Sita and rescued her.
    (contraction: didn't = did not)
  • The people couldn't believe that Sita had remained faithful to Rama.(contraction: couldn't = could not)
Here are some examples of possession:
  • Sita, Rama's wife, was kidnapped by Ravana, the demon king.
    (possession: Rama's wife = the wife of Rama, singular)
  • He carried her far away to Lanka, the demons' island.
    (possession: the demons' island = the island of the demons, plural)
There are a few simple rules about how to use the apostrophe to indicate possession:
  • For a singular noun, add apostrophe-s: Sita was Rama's wife. 
    (NOTE: When a singular noun ends in -s, you will sometimes see just an apostrophe instead of apostrophe-s, especially when the final syllable is not stressed. For example: Peleus was Achilles' father. In modern usage, though, you will also see apostrophe-s added even to words that end in an unstressed syllable. For example: Jesus's mother was named Mary. So, as a general rule, you should add apostrophe-s to any singular noun, even if it ends in s. Try pronouncing the word out loud: if you pronounce the apostrophe syllable as a separate syllable of its own, you should definitely add apostrophe-s!)
  • For a plural noun that ends in -s, just add an apostrophe: Ravana carried Sita far away to Lanka, the demons' island.
  • For a plural noun that does not end in -s, add apostrophe-s: Rama smiled when he saw his children's faces.
IMPORTANT NOTE. The apostrophe is NOT USED to indicate PLURAL NOUNS in English. When you want to create a plural noun in English, you add "s" - you do NOT add an apostrophe to create the plural form of a noun, even an unusual noun:
  • Ravana and the other rakshasas lived on the island of Lanka.
    (rakshasas, NOT rakshasa's)
PRONOUNS and APOSTROPHES. Watch out for some of these tricky items:
  • IT'S = "it is" but ITS = "belonging to it" (no apostrophe)
  • THEY'RE = "they are" but THEIR = "belonging to them" (no apostrophe)
  • YOU'RE = "you are" but YOUR = "belonging to you" (no apostrophe)
  • WHO'S = "who is" but WHOSE = "belonging to whom" (no apostrophe)

This is a painting of Ravana and Sita; see Wikipedia for more information (and yes, Ravana does have ten hands and twenty arms).

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