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Thursday, July 16, 2009



Megatonlove asked me a few moons ago to blog about the Pinoy's propensity to misuse apostrophe s ('s). Although based in 'the wilds of Belgium' I think Megaton still comes across that distinctively Pinoy error in her facebook or probably has a good memory of it while still living in these 7,000+ islands.

So here goes:

The apostrophe is used to indicate plural and possessive forms of words or to indicate missing letters and digits.

With singular and plural nouns that do not end in s, place apostrophe s ('s) at the end of the word to create the possessive form.

SINGULAR: dog -- dog's chef -- chef's William -- William's

PLURAL: geese -- geese's men -- men's feet -- feet's

With singular nouns that do end in s, add apostrophe s ('s). We should stick to the general rule when we can.

boss -- boss's Jones -- Jones's bus -- bus's

lass -- lass's class -- class's Charles -- Charles's

Please note that there are several exceptions to this rule:

1. The possessive forms of the name Jesus and Moses take a simple apostrophe.

Jesus -- Jesus' Moses -- Moses'

2. The possessive forms of names more than one syllable that end in s and whose final syllable has an /eez/ sound take only an apostrophe.

Euripedes -- Euripedes' Socrates -- Socrates' Ramses -- Ramses'

Please remember, however, that most of these are names of long-deceased Greek philosophers or Egyptian pharaohs and of little concern to the general populace.

3. When the object of the preposition in the expression for something's sake ends in s, that object takes only an apostrophe.

for goodness' sake for Jones' sake

To add apostrophe s ('s) would give us three s sounds in a row and that is too many for an articulate speaker to make.

With plural nouns that end in s, just add an apostrophe.

tigers -- tigers' boys -- boys' hearts -- hearts'

rats -- rats' beasts -- beasts' militias -- militias'


The apostrophe is used to create the plural forms of letters and abbreviations.

1. To form the plurals of single letters, add apostrophe s ('s): R's, t's.

2. To form the plurals of abbreviations with internal periods, add apostrophe s ('s): Ph.D.'s, M.D.'s.


The apostrophe is used in contractions to indicate missing letters.

is not -- isn't he is -- he's could not -- couldn't


We often pronounce words in a colloquial manner, leaving off a letter or two. When these colloquially spoken words are written, we use apostrophes to indicate the missing letters.

That ol' car has served me well.

In this example, the adjective old has been shortened to ol'. The apostrophe stands in for the missing d.


The apostrophe appears in numbers to indicate missing digits.

1981 -- '81 1917 -- '17 1941 -- '41 2009 -- '09


Q: "I collect first editions. My favorites are by Charles Dickens. Do I write that they are Dicken's, Dickens', or Dickens's novels?" asked a book collector.

A: The apostrophe rules advise that you add apostrophe s ('s) to show possession with singular nouns that end in s. The phrase Dickens's novels is the correct choice.

This is a difficult and controversial issue. There are two schools of thought regarding the use of the apostrophe with singular nouns: the pro-apostrophe s camp and the apostrophe only camp. The latter camp suggests that we add only the apostrophe and eliminate the s. Some books say do it one way; some say to do it the other; some say that both ways are all right, depending upon the writer's preference. This writer is of the apostrophe s ('s) camp, but you should choose the method that you feel communicates the idea of possession most effectively.

I think most Pinoys err with apostrophe s ('s) by using it when they intend to pluralize a noun

we repair shoe's -- when the correct phrase should be -- we repair shoes

and most often use s apostrophe (s') when they mean the possessive form of a noun

Martins' blog is helpful -- instead of the correct form -- Martin's blog is helpful

That familiar phrase keeping up with the Joneses implies there are several people whose last name is Jones... the phrase keeping up with the Joneses' lifestyle uses apostrophe s ('s) properly but the phrase becomes redundant because it is precisely their 'lifestyle' that is supposedly the one the envious neighbors are 'keeping up with'.

Thanks' Megaton's for hers' suggestion for todays' blog po'st.

note: post in bold type was taken from The Grammar Bible by Michael Strumpf. A very, very exhaustive and highly recommended reference for all writers, bloggers, and sticklers for grammar.


  1. I enjoyed this, Martini. I look forward to the next installment of English As She Is Mangled.

  2. I'm running out na nga of 'grammar post' ideas... any more suggestions?

    eh kung I'll post about 'Taglish' naman?! Them colegialas will surely cringe!

  3. i love thursdays! i love the lessons and the anecdotes that go with it (sometimes)....

  4. Salamat Grace... give me ideas for future posts... don't worry, you'll be credited...