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An Online Catalogue of English Grammar Exercises


Apostrophe
'

Where does the apostrophe go?


You can find it here: "I'm a friend of his" or here: "It's mine". But you won't (will not) find it here: "The cat lost its ball yesterday".


Why not?

Because the apostrophe replaces a letter in "I'm" (I'm=I am) and "It's" (It's=it is) in the sentences above.
In "The cat lost its ball yesterday" there is no letter missing. This is the possessive form, 'its', which is like 'his' and 'hers'.

Rule: (i) its= possessive, like 'his' or 'her' or 'hers'.

       (ii) it's=it is e.g. it's a lovely day.
       (iii) it's=it has e.g. it's been a long time since we met.

There's one more problem:
e.g. The cat's ball is under the sofa".
Here the apostrophe (') means "of the cat". We prefer to use 's e.g. 'cat's ball'.

Exercise: Where do you put the apostrophe in this story?

Lizs Walks.

My mothers unmarried name was Liz Gilbert. The Gilberts were a small family living in East Anglias countryside. They owned a large, and rather stupid, white dog. The dogs name was also Gilbert.
"Wheres Gilberts lead?" Liz would call when the dogs barks reminded her that he needed a walk.
"Its awful weather. Dont forget your umbrella. Its in the hall," my grandmother would call.

One day Liz was walking Gilbert in the rain when his eyes lighted on a cat across the road. His sudden jump pulled her into a cars headlights. The car swerved into a tree, just in time to avoid hitting them both. Lizs frightened scream upset Gilbert, whose barks were deafening. The drivers eyes were angry and his words were angrier as he climbed out of his car.

"Look at my new car. Its finished. I'll never be able to drive it again" he shouted.
Then he found himself looking into Lizs soulful brown eyes - she was very good at looking soulful!
"Im so sorry. Gilbert saw a cats eyes on the other side of the road. His favourite thing, apart from chewing Dads shoes, is chasing cats. I couldnt help it," her eyes were full of tears.
"Your dogs dangerous", he said. "And whos going to pay my bills?"
"It was an accident. Ive only just got a new job. I havent go any money. Come home for a cup of tea to get over the shock, and Ill ask my fathers advice", she said quickly.

Lizs walks led to her future change of name. Now shes Mrs. Liz Smith. Thats how she met my Dad.

The correct version: Liz's walks.

My mother's unmarried name was Liz Gilbert. The Gilberts were a small family living in East Anglia's countryside. They owned a large, and rather stupid, white dog. The dog's name was also Gilbert.
"Where's Gilbert's lead?" Liz would call when the dog's barks reminded her that he needed a walk.
"It's awful weather. Don't (do not) forget your umbrella. It's in the hall," my grandmother would call.                                                                                                                                          One day Liz was walking Gilbert in the rain when his eyes lighted on a cat across the road. His sudden jump pulled her into a car's headlights. The car swerved into a tree, just in time to avoid hitting them both.                                                                                                                     Liz's scream upset Gilbert, whose barks were deafening. The driver's eyes were angry and his words were angrier as he climbed out of his car.
"Look at my new car. It's (it is) finished. I'll never be able to drive it again," he shouted.
Then he found himself looking into her soulful eyes - she was very good at looking soulful when she was in the wrong!
"I'm so sorry. Gilbert saw a cat's eyes on the other side of the road. His favourite thing, apart from chewing Dad's shoes, is chasing cats. I couldn't help it," her eyes were full of tears.
"Your dog's dangerous. And who's (who is) going to pay my bills?"
"I've (I have) only just got a new job. I haven't got any money. I'm sorry. Come home for a cup of tea and I'll (I will) ask my father's advice," she said quickly.
Liz's walks led to her future change of name. Now she's Mrs. Liz Smith. That's how she met my Dad.

Other Problems with apostrophes

It is not OK to say: "my nose's size" but to say "the size of my nose" is OK.
It is not OK to say "my dress's size"; say "my dress size".
Don't say "the car's wheels", say "the car wheels" or "the wheels of the car".
Not "the river's bridges" but the "bridges over the river" or "the river bridges".
Not "the tower's roof" but the "tower roof" or "the roof of the tower".
Not "the bathroom's floor" but the "bathroom floor".
Not "my eyes' colour" but "the colour of my eyes".
Not "the book's end" but "the end of the book".
Not " my tooth's colour is white" but "the colour of my teeth is white".
Not "the pork's disease" but the "disease among pigs".
Not "the dress's colour" but "the colour of the dress" or "Its colour".
Not "my coat's collar" but "my coat collar".
BUT "The horse's tail" is fine.
Rule: with people and animals you can use 's but it sounds wrong to say it with things, such as the examples above. What you can do is leave out the possessive "s" making a type of compound noun. Or you can use 'of'.

See The A - Z of English Grammar & Usage for the rules

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