Apostrophe problems!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by TulipsGirl, Aug 2, 2007.

  1. TulipsGirl

    TulipsGirl Cohort

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    Ok, I know I should know this but apostrophes were never my strong suit. :whistle:

    If a name ends in an "s", how do you show ownership?

    For example, the car that belongs to Mr. Jones:

    Is it Mr. Jones's car?
    Or... is it Mr. Jones' car? (Even though s' is for plural?)
    Or is it none of the above?

    Thank you so much for your help.
     
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  3. TulipsGirl

    TulipsGirl Cohort

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    And if it's the whole Jones family who owns the car...

    Is it the Jones' car? (since many people own it?)
     
  4. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I'm glad you asked because it's super easy! Adding apostrophes to show possession does not change the original word in any way. The apostrophe is just tacked on to the end of the word.

    You just take the word you want, decide whether you want it singular or plural, and add an apostrophe to show possession. That's it!

    If you want Jones to possess something, you write Jones'
    This would be use in the case where you're talking about one Jones. I like Mr. Jones' car.

    If you are talking about a whole slew of Joneses, you add the apostrophe after Joneses, because that's the plural form.
    I went to the Joneses' house for dinner.

    Since your original word ends in s, it's up to you if you want to add the s after the apostrophe. The common and better usage is to leave that s off.
     
  5. USMCTCHR

    USMCTCHR Companion

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    :eek: I'm SO glad somebody asked this. I've been too embarrassed to do it. (My last name ends in "s" and I have been told something different whenever I ask.)
     
  6. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Apostrophes are a mess! I think they can be super confusing and needlessly difficult--and I understand how they work! I can only imagine how hard they can be for someone who isn't a grammar freak like me or who is learning English for the first time.

    Let's start a petition to get rid of them! Who's with me? :)
     
  7. who me

    who me Rookie

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    let's think about this...

    But what if I have one in my last name?
    Do I have to change my name??
     
  8. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Thankfully, no. That blue car can be the O'Brien's car.
     
  9. who me

    who me Rookie

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    I'm thankful actually that I don't really have an apostrophe in my name -- too many capital letters to remember.

    I do agree that apostrophes can be confusing. Great explaination, Cassie.
     
  10. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Apostrophe's are almost as bad as commas! I am a grammar Nazi (to quote someone else from another post), and the number of comma errors I dealt with when I was tutoring college students was ridiculous!
     
  11. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    As I type, my students are taking their big grammar final, and apostrophes (no apostrophe necessary because it's just plural) are, of course, on there. Test yourselves; some of these sentences are correct and some are not.

    1. Doesnt that calendar have the wrong year printed on its cover?
    2. Doesn't that calendar have the wrong year printed on it's cover?
    3. Does'nt that calendar have the wrong year printed on it's cover?
    4. Chris shirt's are spotted with grease after a hard days' work.
    5. Chris' shirts are spotted with grease after a hard days work.
    6. Chris's shirts are spotted with grease after a hard days' work.
    7. Chris' shirts are spotted with grease after a hard day's work.
    8. The new taxes main function is to raise money for schools.
    9. the new taxes' main function is to raise money for schools.
    10. The new taxes's main function is to raise money for schools'.
    11. This is the Jones' new house.
    12. This is the new house of the Joneses.
    13. The Jones's live here.
    14. The Joneses live here.
    15. The Jones's cat likes to drag it's toys' to our mothers' house.
    16. Moses carried the tablets' down from the mountain.
    17. The tablet's were carried down from the mountain by Moses.
    18. Moses's tablets are honored by religious persons' to this day.
    19. The Ten Commandments' are posted on the wall's of many institutions.
    20. Many institutions' walls have the Ten Commandments posted on them.
     
  12. pwhatley

    pwhatley Maven

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    Love it!
     
  13. TulipsGirl

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    Thank you Cassie for your explanation!
    I get so many different answers, it's ridiculous.
    Here's an example: A friend looked it up online for me and here's what she got:
    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/print/grammar/g_apost.html

    according to this,
    add 's to the singular form of the word (even if it ends in -s):
    the owner's car
    James's hat



    So Cassie, what do I do with this is information? Is this consistent with the last part of you answer:
    I'm not at all trying to challenge you, just trying to understand!:dunno:

    Thanks again for your help - I really appreciate it!!
     
  14. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I think they say to add apostrophe + s to everything just to make it easier. In my opinion, you don't need to add the + s to a word which already ends in s because it's redundant.

    James' house is better.
    James's house is okay, but looks weird.
     
  15. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Only if it's one O'Brien, othewise it's the O'Briens' car....
     
  16. MsWK

    MsWK Habitué

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    Rule #1 from Strunk & White's The Elements of Style:
    "Form the possessive of singular nouns by adding 's.
    Follow this rule whatever the final consonant. Thus write,
    Charles's friend
    Burns's poems
    the witch's malice
    Exceptions are the possessives of ancient proper names in -es and -is, the possessive of Jesus', and such forms as for conscience' sake, for righteousness' sake,..."

    So,

    If it's singular (even if it ends in an "s"), and you make it possessive, you add "'s." (apostrophe + s)
    ex. bird = bird's wing
    Jones = Jones's car.


    If it's plural, and it's possessive, you add '. (apostrophe)
    ex. birds = birds' wings
    Jonses = Joneses' car.


    It it becoming increasingly acceptable to leave off the added "s" at the end of a singular possesive that already ends in "s." In general, our language is becoming more shortened and abbreviated. In part, this is a result of modern technology.

    In other words, when it comes to the singular possessive, you can choose. You can get away with dropping your "s" in Chicago Style, but not in MLA yet. Make of that what you will. The company you keep (and for whom you write) should determine whether it's okay for you to dispense with formality for funcationality.

    I'm a traditionalist, so I stick with the old school rules. I don't think it's redundant at all to add the extra "s." When I say "Mary Jones's car," I'm actually pronouncing boths "s's:" "Jonesiz"
     
  17. TulipsGirl

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    I definitely hear that - it looks weird to me too - that's why I get so confused!
    I didn't think of it as redundant though, because each "s" serves a different purpose. One is part of the root word, the other is part of the suffix, making it possessive.

    When you think about it, there are probably different rules for when the s in a singular word is voiced ( Mr. Jones) and when it is not voiced ( one bus). After all, you couldn't say that the bus' window is broken. You'd say the bus's window is broken. (I think. Right?)
    Unless, of course, you are using bus as an adjective (not a noun), as in, "a bus window". Without the apostrophe.

    ANYWAY, until we get that petition underway to get rid of apostrophes, I thank you all very much for your input and expertise -
    Cassie, and MsWK, fantastic job explaining something I haven't understood for years!:2up:
     
  18. KDS

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  19. TulipsGirl

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    See, that's why this place is so great - you don't have to be embarrassed to ask these things... No one knows who you are!
    (and if you know who I am... don't tell me you've figured it out...
    I'd like to be able to ask my embarrassing questions and at least think I'm anonymous!) :whistle:
     
  20. LuvTchng

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    Thank you MsWk for finding that rule concerning the possessive for Jesus. It has always bugged me when I open the Bible and don't see the 's' after the apostrophe. I was taught and our entire county teaches students that an apostrophe by itself is only correct if the word is already in plural form.
     
  21. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    My textbook states that ANY word that already ends in 's' forms its possessive by adding an apostrophe, and that ANY word that does not end in 's' forms its possessive by adding 's.
     
  22. TulipsGirl

    TulipsGirl Cohort

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    So according to your textbook, one would say
    "the bus' window is broken" for one bus?

    Goodness. I guess I should be thankful. I can go either way and still defend myself to a questioning parent. :up:
     
  23. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    Yes.

    If there is more than one bus, it would be "The buses' windows are broken." The context is EVERYTHING.
     
  24. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    If the name is singular and ends with s, then use 's=Mr. Jones's car
    If the name ends with s and is plural, just add and '=the Jones' car

    That is how our grammar books teach it, but my kids always get confused because no one seems to follow it. I think it keeps the singular/plural core distinctive than just tacking on an apostrophe whenever a word ends in s. If you had two children in your class named Jesus, would Jesus' be singular or plural?
     
  25. TeacherGroupie

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    Under no system that I know of would Jesus' be plural. As to how one forms the possessive, I think the only Jesus for whom one doesn't form the possessive with 's is the most famous one; for all the others, the singular possessive should be Jesus's and the plural Jesuses'.
     
  26. Upsadaisy

    Upsadaisy Moderator

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    I read that the modern acceptable method is to mimic the sound of the end of the plural possessive. Sometimes, we naturally say the extra s, sometimes we don't.

    The Jones's dog.
    The cars' paint jobs.
     
  27. USMCTCHR

    USMCTCHR Companion

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    I feel like I am back where I started!! :haha:

    So, I guess either way is okay?
     
  28. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Well, sort of. Most careful writers have a preference, and in many cases a strong one, but as long as you don't write Jones's when you mean Joneses (more than one Jones, not possessive), you're probably not going to get needled much. If your work is being edited for publication, then there will be a "house style" and your writing will be edited to conform to it, but that's more a fact about publication than it is about the writer.
     
  29. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    "So, I guess either way is okay?"

    Not in the business world, dahlins.

    One job, 80 cover letters and resumes. . . guess who is going to get it? NOT the ones with SEAE errors. (Standard Edited American English)

    In 26 years, I have seen countless discrepancies between elementary grammar books and secondary grammar books. Now, at the college level, I see even more.

    The business executives who guest-gig in my classroom on occasion are unanimous in their assertation that the secondary/post-secondary rules are also the business rules.

    But y'all do it however you wish. Just warn your students that things really tighten up in the upper levels.
     
  30. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Mamacita, I think it's safe to interpret the poster's question as being specifically about apostrophe usage. In that case, the correct answer is that, yes, reputable authorities do differ: the possessive of Thomas can be either Thomas' or Thomas's, and this is properly a matter of the house style I alluded to earlier. The same can be said of commas to separate items in a series (that is, "these, them, and those" vs. "these, them and those").

    If the question is taken more broadly, of course, and on points on which there is more consensus, then your assertion stands.
     
  31. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    My response does not contradict this- O'Brien does not end in 's' so if the car belongs to MR. O'Brien, the possessive is Mr. O'Brien's car. If, however, the car belongs to all the O'Briens (and now since there are several of them the word ends in 's') then the car would be the O'Briens' car....
     
  32. teacherSMK

    teacherSMK Habitué

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    OY! Who knew such a tiny little mark could cause such controversy. hehe, I love this site. :)
     
  33. runsw/scissors

    runsw/scissors Phenom

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    I'll have to consult the book Eats Shoots and Leaves. That author seems to be a grammar guru.
     
  34. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

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    Try Karen Elizabeth Gordon's The Well-Tempered Sentence.
     

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