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Apostrophes in nouns

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Lesson content

The topic of this minilesson is apostrophes in nouns
You will learn about
the function of apostrophes in nouns

where to put apostrophes in singular nouns

where to put apostrophes in plural nouns

The function of apostrophes in nouns

Before we discuss the function of apostrophes, let's look at some noun phrases containing apostrophes:.
HH John's pet giraffe

HH my friend's parents

the child's toys

HH a tree's roots

possessive

In general, we can say that the function of the apostrophe is to show a having relationship between two nouns. So:
John has a pet giraffe;
My friend has parents;
a tree has roots; and so on.
The grammar term for this kind of having or belonging relationship is possessive. So John, friend, child, and tree are possessive nouns. We use an apostrophe in English to show that a noun is possessive.
Apostrophes in singular possessive nouns

Let's have another look at the same phrases:
John's pet giraffe,
my friend's parents,
the child's toys,
a tree's roots,
In all of these phrases the possessive noun, shown in italics, is a singular noun.
John's pet giraffe

my friend's parents

the child's toys

a tree's roots

As you see, the apostrophe has been added at the end of the possessive noun and is followed by an s.
Quiz page 1

Quiz intro: Quiz page: Click continue to go on, or do the quiz first and then continue.
Click the correct answers to the questions below.

1. Which sentence below is correctly punctuated?


2. Which sentence below is correctly punctuated?


1a Sorry, there is only one girl, in other words: girl is a singular possissive noun. The apostrophe must come before the s in singular possessive nouns.
1b No, girl is a possessive noun and so it needs an apostrophe. In this case girl is singular so the apostrophe comes before the s.
1c Correct. Girl is a singular possessive noun, so the apostrophe comes before the s.
2a Right answer. Both sister and boyfriend are singular possessive nouns and so the apostrophe comes before the s.
2b Half right. Sister is a singular possessive noun, so it is correctly punctuated. But boyfriend is also a singular possessive noun, so it too needs an apostrophe.
2c No, sorry. Both sister and boyfriend are singular possessive nouns and so the apostrophe must come before the and not after the s.
Apostrophes in plural nouns ending in s

To place apostrophes in plural possessive nouns is a little more complicated, since this depends on whether the plural noun ends with s or not.
Let's look first at nouns whose plural does end with an s.
friends :0        .....

teachers:0       .....

cats: 0           .....

countries: 0       .....

Now let's put each of these plural nouns into a possessive phrase:
my friends' parents,
the teachers' room,
cats' eyes,
most countries' leaders.
You see that all we need to do is to add an apostrophe at the end of the plural noun. There is no need to add an s as the noun already ends with an s. The apostrophe is the last part of the word.
Apostrophes in irregular plural nouns

More than 99% of English nouns are regular and form their plurals with an s. However, there are a few, very common, nouns which do not end in s in the plural. Let's have a look at four of them:
children: 0       .....

women: 0       .....

men: 0       .....

people: 0       .....

Putting these irregular plural nouns into a possessive phrase gives us the following examples:
the children's toys,
women's rights,
men's fashion,
and the people's vote.
As you see, the apostrophe at the end of the irregular plural noun must be followed by an s since the plural itself does not end with an -s.
Quiz page 2

Click the correct answers to the questions below.

3. Which sentence below is correctly punctuated?


4. Which sentence below is correctly punctuated?


3a Yes, babies is a possessive plural noun, so the apostrophe comes after the s.
3b. No, this is not right.The word babies is correctly punctuated but toys is a simple plural, not a possessive, so it should not have an apostrophe.
3c Sorry, The word babies can never be spelled like this. Remember that the apostrophe comes after the s in regular plural possessives.
4a Sorry, wrong. People is an irregular plural. To make it into a possessive you must add an apostrophe and then an s. In other words, the apostrophe comes before the s in irregular plural nouns like people, men or children.
4b Correct. The apostrophe comes before the s in irregular plural nouns.
4c No this is not right. People is a possessive noun and so it needs an apostrophe. Because people is an irregular plural, the apostrophe comes before the s.
Summing up ..

So, to sum up: we write apostrophe then s for singular possessive nouns
my mother's job
the child's bike     .....

We also write apostrophe then s for nouns whose plural does end with s.
people's choice
men's shoes        .....

And we simply add an apostrophe at the end of plural possessive nouns that already end with an s.
the babies' toys
birds' wings        .....

The next steps ..

You have come to the end of this minilesson. You can now click here to do the post-lesson quiz and see how much you have learned.

Or you can click to return to the index page. Here you will find links to more quizzes, follow-on lessons, and other websites on the topic.

Write well!
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