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March 9, 2009 | by  | in Opinion |
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teh apostrophey

The apostrophe is used in English to indicate possession, as well as being used for contractions—going in place of letters when a word or words are shortened for speaking purposes—fuckin’ zombie holocaust instead of fucking zombie holocaust. For possession, you would use an apostrophe when writing the zombie’s student loan, to indicate that the student loan belongs to the zombie. If there are TWO zombies, you say “There are two zombies.” Note the absence of an apostrophe. It’s only when these (plural) zombies own things that they get an apostrophe after the s: the zombies’ student loan(s). However, there is an exception to this rule—if the plural of the word that is owning the thing being possessed (fuck this is hard to explain—Imean the word you have to put the apostrophe on) is formed without an s, then the apostrophe goes before the s:

One zombie’s student loan. Two zombies’ student loans. One person’s brain being eaten. Two people’s brains being eaten.

So basically, if you can rearrange the sentence to use of instead of an apostrophe (the man’s zombie-dog—the zombie-dog of the man) and there isn’t an s on the end, then you need an apostrophe and then an s. If there is an s on the end (the students’ rotting flesh—the rotting flesh of the students), then you just put the apostrophe after the s that is already there (Also—James’ dismembered foot). This is all pretty straightforward.

It all gets confusing with the unfortunate contraction it’s, which ALWAYS means it is. This is commonly confused with the possessive adjective its, because of the apostrophe which is usually used for possession. But its is possessive in itself and does not require an apostrophe—just like the other possessive adjectives my, your, his, her, our and their.

So how do you know if you should use it’s or its? If you can change the its/it’s in question to it is and your sentence makes perfect sense (sorry, I should say, that bit of your sentence makes sense), then you need the apostrophe. Alternatively, if you can make whatever it is masculine or feminine and replace the its/it’s with the possessive adjective his or her, then you don’t need the apostrophe:

There’s the reanimated human corpse; that’s its cellphone.
There’s the reanimated human corpse; that’s his/her cellphone.

Questions? Send me an email at mikey@salient.org.nz.
Braaaaaaaaaiiins.

Suggested reading:
Books in general (about zombies).
Wikipedia.
Some sort of book on grammar. Find one yourself.

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About the Author ()

Mikey learned everything he knows about English Grammar in an MSN chat room when he was 13. Believing that people don't say "LOL" enough in everyday conversation, he has made it his mission to teach the world about grammerz one person at a time.

Comments (8)

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  1. Mikey says:

    D’oh! Total oversight on my part. ‘It’s’ doesn’t ALWAYS mean ‘it is’, it can also mean ‘it has’.
    It’s been ages since I’ve done grammar stuff, I’m rusty.

  2. Electrum Stardust says:

    Deutsch hat keine Possessivapostrophe.

  3. Mikey says:

    Weiß ich wohl.

  4. Superior Mind says:

    Grammar Nazis…

  5. A disgruntled first year says:

    To All You Second Years and Upwards,

    Whats the fucking big deal with being a first year? You were first years once and got treated like this too. Maybe you should shut the fuck up and be the bigger person. Theres something called manners you know. Say excuse me instead of whinging about first years taking up all the room. Its not just first years.

    MR. I hate 90% of all first year students heres one for you. Shut the fuck up and stop complaining. Your a fucking idiot.

    LEAVE US ALONE

    Regards,

  6. Gordon from Glasgow says:

    What tha fook you whinging lil’ sook. If you fookin’ first yurs diddnae stand aroond tha corridars fiddlin’ with ya sporrans swillin’ aroond like ‘aggis off cuts then we wouldnae hurl abuse and shite at your gobs.

    Ya’ alsoo fooked up ya fookin grammar you fookin ass wipe coont nugget.

    It’s supposed ta be
    “You’re a fookin idiot”

    Ya dinnaeya read the the column didya ya mindluss ranter, yer not evahn on a post that talks aboot furst years. Fooking twat.

  7. Superior Mind says:

    My esteemed highland friend here is correct, I believe you meant to send Salient a letter. Try e-mailing Jackson rather than just posting a random comment on the first article you come across. His e-mail address is editor@salient.org.nz

    But what the Hell since you’re here; as we all had to go through the “hardship” of being first years why should you be any different? You think you’re better than us? You do don’t you. Well that’s even MORE a reason to bring you down a peg or two isn’t it?

    First years come from school where they sit at the top of the student hierarchical ladder to a place where they’re now the dregs. Adjustment to being one of the surfs takes time. Don’t worry you’ll get through it and when you do you’ll make bloody sure that next years first years know that you find it comical when they can’t find the buttons for the doors and hate them for blocking the area in front of the Kirk lecture theatres.

  8. Chewy says:

    Fucking first years. They’re so obvious.

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