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One aspect of English that causes problems for many native speakers is apostrophes. Deciding when they are needed and where to put them is not always so easy. It is clear to most educated native speakers that the following sentences contain incorrect apostrophes:

But there are many situations when things are not so straightforward. For example, when referring to parts of this ESL website, should I refer to the Parents website or Parents' website? (I choose to omit the apostrophe.) However, these articles are concerned with the particular problems faced by non-native speakers in learning English, and so I want to concentrate on a different aspect of the apostrophe problem; namely the use of apostrophes to denote possession or relationship in phrases such as the boy's mother, my dog's basket, the president's jacket.

These examples are not very difficult, but what about phrases such as the car's door? Is this correct, or should we say the door of the car, or simply the car door? The native speaker doesn't usually have to worry about questions like these; she intuitively picks the correct use for the particular meaning she wants to convey, and automatically avoids any incorrect usage. So, in this case, she would probably never say the car's door (although the car's engine .. sounds OK), and she will choose one or other of the expressions depending on what she wants to say. For example:


Test your knowledge of this very tricky area of English by answering these questions:


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