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Punctuation Question--

 
 
Gala
 
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 06:22 pm
Okay. I've never been very good at punctuation, grammar etc. I am wondering if anyone can describe in the most remedial way when you are supposed to put an apostrophe ('s) when using a sentence like, " It's my fathers (?) or , father's home.

Is there a trick to learning the proper usage of when to put the apostrophe there?

I understand the difference between: It's my home... or They're going to come over, but the 's baffle me.

Thanks.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 1,777 • Replies: 22
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 06:56 pm
Edited because my post was wrong. Equus' post is correct.
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 07:06 pm
thanks, c.i.

so would this be correct: I bought the set of chair's at Wal-Mart ( oh yuk)?

How about: I enjoy going to conventions.

or: the reporter's style is interesting.

And if it's plural: Reporters are biased.

Am I getting it?
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Equus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 07:11 pm
To make a possessive, you add 's to most words
--History's mysteries
--George's pencil
EXCEPT if the word already ends in s, in which case you just add an apostrophe
--Physics' mysteries
--Louis' pencil
This applies the same way to plural nouns: plurals ending in s should just get an apostrophe. plurals ending other than s should get 's
--Americans' rights
--women's rights
but words that are already possessive don't need an apostrophe
--theirs
--his

apostrophes also indicate contractions, combining two words into one. the apostrophe generally goes where there are missing letters.
--they're (they are)
--don't (do not)

When is is the second word of a contraction, the result resembles possessives, which is sometimes confusing:
--there's (there is)
--he's (he is)

The major exception to the above is the word "it". By convention, the possessive form of it does NOT use an apostrophe, but the contraction "it is" DOES use an apostrophe. So
--The cat scratches its back.
--The cat went away, but now it's back.

Also, occasionally 's is used to form a plural, but usually this is limited to describing single letters.
--There are four S's in the word Mississippi.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 07:13 pm
This post was in error, so I edited it out of existence. Wink
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Equus
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 07:18 pm
I disagree. Certainly a chair doesn't own property; but what about the chair's design, the chair's color, the chair's occupant?
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 08:00 pm
equus, here's ( i get that) what is so wacky about my learning. i get the more confusing punctuation, there's, he's, because i can break it down ...e.g. there's ( there is ) trouble here. or the cat went away, now it's ( it is ) back after eating its dinner.

it's the more simple stuff, like when to add the 's.

Convention's ( is that right? ) are a bore. Supermarket's are too big. i'm having trouble grasping what possessive means in this context. but i think these two examples are correct. so i do get your explanation...at least at this moment. think i'm going to have to memorize it.

and here's another example of what trips me up, but i usually get it after tossing it around in my head for a minute or two:

then, than.

thanks.
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 08:14 pm
Here's a good link with examples on the use of apostrophe. http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/grammar/g_apostA1.html
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Eos
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Jun, 2004 09:43 pm
There is some disagreement about where to put apostrophe-s - Equus' examples are perfectly correct, but other sources will tell you to put an apostrophe-s after every possessive (Strunk and White's Elements of Style, for example). Really, both methods are ok.

But it sounds like your problem is really in identifying possesives as opposed to plurals.

Plurals never get an apostrophe. So,
Conventions are a bore. Supermarkets are too big.

Possessives for people are my handgun, your appendectomy, his vacant expression, her feeling of disgust, our time together, their defenseless stupidity.

With other nouns, like chair, or mountains, or my brother, or the gorilla, there must be an apostrophe for the possessive - it's just when to use an 's' that some people differ over.

A possessive is when one thing belongs to another - the easiest way to know if it's a possessive is to ask yourself if you could say the exact same thing by switching it around with 'of' like this:
the chair's design or
the design of the chair

For instance,
the gorilla's strangling me
and
the gorillas are strangling me
cannot be rewritten the strangling me of the gorilla - that makes no sense, so we know that neither of those are possessives - the first is a contraction (the gorilla is strangling me) and the second is a plural (the gorillas [that is, more than one of them] are strangling me).

So now you try - which of these are plurals, which are contractions, and which are possessives? (I'm going to leave the apostrophes out - you figure out where they should go).

1. The chairs are too small for the students.

2. The mountains majesty is irrefutable.

3. My brothers always take such a long time in the bathroom.

4. The mountains falling down.

5. My brothers dog is digging up the yard.

6. The gorillas too large to overpower.

7. My brothers known for his smell.

8. The gorillas hands are digging into my neck.

9. The chairs designer was an idiot.

10. The other gorillas are digging me a shallow grave.
0 Replies
 
Gala
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2004 07:59 am
Eos,

1. the chairs are too small for the students

2. the mountains majesty is irrefutable.

3.my brother's always hogging the bathroom.

4. the mountain's falling down.

5. my brothers dog is digging up the yard.

6. the gorilla's too large to overcome, so i invited him over for tea.

7. my brother's known for his smell.

8. after her manicure, the gorilla's hands are digging into my neck.

9. the chairs designer is an idiot.

10. the gorillas are digging me a shallow grave even after i invited them to tea.

i hope i passed. this is more nerve racking than waiting to find out if i got accepted into college...
0 Replies
 
Eos
 
  1  
Reply Sat 5 Jun, 2004 11:15 pm
Gala,
your answers:


1. the chairs are too small for the students
correct. this is a plural, and gets no apostrophe.

2. the mountains majesty is irrefutable.
incorrect. the mountain's majesty could also be written the majesty of the mountain, which tells us that this is a possessive. Possessives always get an apostrophe (but maybe sometimes not an 's').

3.my brother's always hogging the bathroom.
correct. this is a contraction for my brother is.
(Though what I actually wrote was "My brothers always take such a long time in the bathroom.", which is a plural - here, I have more than one brother.)

4. the mountain's falling down.
correct. another contraction, this time for the mountain is.

5. my brothers dog is digging up the yard.
incorrect. my brother's dog could also be written the dog of my brother, so we know that this is a possessive.

6. the gorilla's too large to overcome, so i invited him over for tea.
correct. a contraction again, for the gorilla is.

7. my brother's known for his smell.
correct. another contraction, for my brother is.

8. after her manicure, the gorilla's hands are digging into my neck.
correct. the gorilla's hands could be rewritten the hands of the gorilla, so this is a possessive. Good job!
(there is a stylistic problem with your addition, but it's not important here, so nevermind.)

9. the chairs designer is an idiot.
incorrect. the chair's designer could be rewritten the designer of the chair, so it's another possessive.

10. the gorillas are digging me a shallow grave even after i invited them to tea.
correct. this is a plural, as the gorillas are making a cooperative effort to inter me (and after I was so nice! Never trust a gorilla.)

Seven out of ten is good. Here are a few more to practice on.

1. That gorillas defenestration was completely justified.
The gorillas, after some conferencing, have decided to retaliate.

2. My tube socks are experiencing some slippage.
My tube socks elastic is showing poor workmanship.

3. The packages the largest of its size that I have ever seen.
The packages, having been misaddressed, were never recovered.

4. The tarantulas are experiencing some ennui.
The tarantulas bristles are tickling my leg.

5. The gymnasiums scent was a mixture of sweat, floor wax, and unresolved insecurities.
The gymnasiums making me vaguely nauseated again.
0 Replies
 
Gala
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2004 08:50 am
Eos, i see what you are saying about the style thingy and the manicure... ok, here goes again...and thanks for your patience.

1. that gorillas defenestration was completely justified. the gorillas, after some conferencing, have decided to retaliate.

2. my tube socks are experiencing some slippage. My tube sock's elastic is showing poor workmanship.

3.the package's the largest of its size that i have ever seen. the packages, having been misaddressed, we're never recovered.

4. the tarantulas are experiencing some ennui. the tarantula's bristles are tickling my leg.

5. the gymnasiums scent was a mixture of sweat, floor wax, and unresolved inecurities. the gymnasium's making me vaguely nauseated again.

i'm confused. and have juggled these...for example, i didn't put an apostrophe for the defenestration of the gorilla cause defenestration is a verb, not a noun, then again, it can be spoken of as "the defenestration of the gorilla."
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Eos
 
  1  
Reply Sun 6 Jun, 2004 09:52 pm
1. that gorillas defenestration was completely justified. the gorillas, after some conferencing, have decided to retaliate.
it should be "that gorilla's defenestration" - as you say, it can be rewritten as "the defenestration of the gorilla", and so it is a possessive - you were confused because you thought 'defenestration' was a verb. It's not. It's a noun meaning 'ejection from a window'. The verb is 'defenestrate' - to eject from a window.

2. my tube socks are experiencing some slippage. My tube sock's elastic is showing poor workmanship.
good job!

3.the package's the largest of its size that i have ever seen. the packages, having been misaddressed, we're never recovered.
you got the packages parts right, but putting an apostrophe in were (the past tense of are) makes it the contration for 'we are'.

4. the tarantulas are experiencing some ennui. the tarantula's bristles are tickling my leg.
good job!

5. the gymnasiums scent was a mixture of sweat, floor wax, and unresolved insecurities. the gymnasium's making me vaguely nauseated again.
the first one should be 'the gymnasium's scent', because we can rewrite it 'the scent of the gymnasium' - it's a possessive.

You're getting the hang of it! 80/100 this time!

One more exercise. This time, they're all possessives, and I've written them with their apostrophes. Rewrite them with of.

1. Charlie Chaplin's sense of humor was of a taciturn variety.

2. The fortune teller's crystal ball was showing her, to her aggravation, next Tuesday's dinner, and she didn't like what she saw.

3. The boa's powerful grip can be broken with a splash of hot water. Be sure to act upon this information while you are still able to reach the sink.

4. My chocolate bunny's ear is missing, and my sister is protesting her innocence through a mouthful of something.

5. The tango's movements are especially dramatic, and should only be attempted by the hot-blooded.

6. My sandwich's egg salad is a suspicious shade, and the scent is dampening my appetite.

7. The skyscraper's height extends well over a thousand feet, making it very dangerous to giants with bare feet.

8. Janice's underwear was clearly visible. Was she aware of this, Sylvia wondered?

9. The hot-blooded but lethargic latin dancer's attempts to sweep Daphne off her feet resulted in little more than a gentle swaying.

10. The giant's instep was bothering him. Damn. Why did they have to make their buildings so sharp?
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2004 05:45 pm
ok, eos..

1. the humor of charlie chaplin's was of taciiturn variety.

do you men that way?
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2004 05:46 pm
mean, oops, the "a" gets stuck sometimes.
0 Replies
 
Eos
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2004 08:22 pm
right, except that the 's is instead of the of construction, so when you change it around, take away the 's, like so:

1. Charlie Chaplin's sense of humor was of a taciturn variety.
The sense of humor of Charlie Chaplin was of a taciturn variety.
0 Replies
 
Shekeda
 
  1  
Reply Tue 8 Jun, 2004 10:58 pm
Gala and Eos,

Thank you both for an entertaining - and educational - time, reading these posts!

I'd like to believe that my knowledge of when to include an apostrophe is quite good and I'm constantly gritting my teeth when I see one included when it shouldn't be, in posts to mailing lists and forums etc. (Not to mention the wrong use of 'there/their/they're or to/too (grrr) etc - but that's a whole other subject!) On the other hand, it can sometimes give you a good mind boggle if you try to imagine things as written Smile

One of my peeves is when people write things like, "I have over 1000 CD's"! CD's <b>what??</b> A couple (or so) years ago I was almost driven to screaming point every time I saw 'Bridget Jones's Diary' written. ARGHH!

<b>Gala:</b> I loved your amusing additions to the 'test' sentences - great sense of humour (< note correct, English spelling Smile )

<b>Eos:</b> A couple of your sentences could have referred to singular <b>or</b> plural things. For example, 'the mountains majesty is irrefutable.' Couldn't that apply to a mountain chain (plural) as well as a single mountain? 'The majesty of the mountains' . Therefore moving the apostrophe to the other side of the 's' Smile

Also, in the sentence, "The packages the largest of its size that I have ever seen." I would NOT contract "package is" to"'package's" as to me it only looks like a possessive and doesn't 'read' like a contraction (if you know what I mean)! Smile

Thank you Eos for the point about 'its' NEVER having an apostrophe. I hope I'll always remember that.

Hope you didn't mind me "butting in" like this!
0 Replies
 
Gala
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jun, 2004 06:25 pm
Shedeka, you're not butting at all. i'm glad you're enjoying this, because, despite Eos's noble and kind effort, it is a little slice 'o hell for me--

2. the crystal ball of the fortune teller, was showing her, to her aggravation, next Tuesday's dinner, and she didn't like what she saw. moreover, the crystal ball of said fortune teller predicted mediocrity for one grammar-spaz member of able2know.

3. the powerful grip of the boa can be broken with a splash of hot water. be sure to act upon this information while you are able to reach the sink. however, if you are challenged by the rules of grammar, a good southern baptist snake-handling ceremony may be beneficial.

4. the ear of my chocolate bunny is missing, and my sister is protesting her innocence through a mouthful of apostrophes.

5.the movements of the tango are especially dramatic, and should only be attempted by the hot-blooded, or those who can master high school level grammar.

6. the egg salad in my sandwich is a suspicious shade, and the scent is dampening my appetite but giving me a taste for possesives.

7. the height of the skyscraper extends well over a 1000 feet, making it very dangerous to giants with bare feet. despite this modern wonder, the elements of good punctuation remain elusive to giants and one regular-sized person.

8. the underwear of Janice were clearly visible. so why can't the elements of style be clearly visible to me?

9. the attempts of the hot-blooded but lethargic latin dancer to sweep daphne off her feet resulted in a little more than gentle swaying. the education-oriented but quickly-growing weary Eos's attempts to teach Gala the differences between possesives and plurals resulted in Eos's vow to never correspond with Gala again. even when Gala contributed cogent and brilliant insights, Eos skipped them entirely.

10. the instep of the giant was bothering him. damn. why did they have to make buildings so sharp? furthermore, why did Eos bother to subject him/herself to this futile endoever of trying to help a nimrod.

11. Eos, never having been prone to getting headaches, suddenly became afflicted with the dull and achy sensations of migraines. this affliction began around Sunday, June 6 at 12:15 am. the long-term effects resulted in a lifetime of the vapors.
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Gala
 
  1  
Reply Wed 9 Jun, 2004 06:26 pm
oops, shekeda.
0 Replies
 
Eos
 
  1  
Reply Thu 10 Jun, 2004 01:58 pm
Those were all perfect. And amusing. Don't worry, I'm not tired of you, but I imagine you're sick of these exercises. I hope they've made you feel a little better about the possessive.
Really, the best way to improve your grammar is to read, and read, and read - and it doesn't matter what you read (as long as it's been published - that means an editor has had a swipe at it).
And don't ever feel that you're alone. Most people find English to be less like a landscape with pitfalls and more like one enormous booby-trap.

PS - I've always been prone to migranes, but didn't have one Sunday. The vapors, though - that's an idea. I may take up the vapors. I need a new hobby.

Shakeda - Glad others have enjoyed this. You're right, some of the sample sentences could be taken as singular or plural, so I was prepared to count either treatment (as long as it contained an apostrophe) as correct. CD's drives me crazy too, but evidently it's actually a legitimate usage (depending on which book you're reading. I'm in the middle of Eats, Shoots, and Leaves). I know, the 'packages' one could have been clearer, but I love that line (it's from The Phantom Tollbooth).

Adieu!
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