Welcome to the last lesson in this series.

I thought we'd finish with the most misused figure of punctuation the English language has. By the term English I include you Americans, South Africans, Aussies and anyone else lucky enough to speak the toughest and most nonsensical language on the planet.

The Apostrophe.

The apostrophe serves two main functions: to replace a missing letter, and to signify ownership or belonging.

You're all familiar with the first use. I've used it in both of these sentences but it's so familiar we rarely notice. I AM, becomes "I'm". YOU ARE becomes "You're". I'm sure that you understand fully. I've used it seven times in this paragraph alone. Count them.

The second use signifies ownership or belonging. "David's hat was on the dresser. The dresser left wearing David's hat". Where the ownership or belonging applies to a collective noun which already ends in an "s", like "soldiers" then the apostrophe FOLLOWS the word:

"The soldiers' bayonets were blunt and useless".

The exception to this is where the collective noun DOESN'T end in an "s", like "children". Here we would have "It rained cats and dogs on the children's annual party".

Another exception, less used correctly, is when a name ends in "s", so something which belongs to James would be James', and something belonging to Jesus would be Jesus'. Although both proper nouns are singular, James's and Jesus's is just wrong and looks it, although I've seen both used in printed material.

The word which causes most consternation is "It's". "It's can only ever mean "IT IS". the word never takes an apostrophe in the possessive. So, "I like this training: it's been near perfect inits execution".

Oddly enough, if you really don't get the it's - its differentiation, it's better (if you're really in a hurry) to leave the apostrophe out altogether rather than put one in where it doesn't belong. People have heard so much about the wrongly placed apostrophe that they're more likely to forgive its omission than it's wrongful inclusion. I don't know how well this translates internationally but we refer to a wrongly placed apostrophe as a grocer's apostrophe. A grocer's apostrophe appears in those hastily scrawled posters outside greengrocers' shops which say:

"Potato's only 25p per lb"; "Cabbage's 80p each" or "Broad bean's only £1 per lb".

Once you get the hang of punctuation you'll find yourself silently screaming every time you pass a shop window and read "Half Price Toy's for Sale".

Well, this course of 16 lessons has reached its end. I think we've covered a lot, but there is much left to dig into. I'm going to spend time developing a web presence offering all of this and more thanks to a suggestion from a reader (Honesty) but I'm happy to answer any questions meanwhile. Thanks for reading and I hope it's been useful. Tick the task boxes, which are only there for fun on this course. It might give some credit.



Tasks 0/2 completed
1. Tick all the other task boxes.
2. Read, and keep reading. I mean books, and lots of them. It

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christine2 Premium
I will leave now, because I am constantly picking up grammar and spelling mistakes in others, as well as on the news, in newspapers, in books, on the radio...
Not that mine is perfect, but I must have had VERY GOOD TEACHERS as I was painfully and deliberately acquiring English as my second language...I would never have had the guts to put anything up as training but I find it hilarious and can only commend you, Paul.I feel like I have found a soul mate griping about the same thing. I hope you have given a tutorial on my pet hate: the misuse of the words to lay and to lie. My patients always tell me they were laying down...their life, perhaps? And working in Ashton-under - Lyne near Manchester one of my patients proceeded to tell me: "I were just eating me tea, when..."
Coming from South Africa I never thought that i would need an interpreter for English, but there I did!
Paul Dean Premium
In Manchester (as elsewhere in England) people will happily admit to being "sat in front of the telly". I never occurs to them that by the same grammatical rules they should "get up and go for a walked". People seem particularly poor at tenses.

When ever I hear the word "sat" on telly I shout the word "sitting!" My wife just sighs.

I'll try to do "me" and "I" tomorrow, along with the correction to "me and him went out".
mrbill74 Premium
I'm forever correcting my girlfriend's comments, and it's reached the point where I simply brace myself after doing so--I KNOW she's going to smack me! These comments here remind me of a grammar course I enjoyed while still at AT&T. By the end of class, we came to three resolute conclusions:

1) It's not 'Lay Lady Lay', it's 'Lie Lady Lie';
2) It's not 'Lay Down, Sally', it's 'Lie Down, Sally'; and
3) It's not 'I Feel Good!', but 'I Feel Well'.

I may not have used the proper punctuation above, but this discussion is about grammar, right? :-)
speedking Premium
Hi Christine, good to hear from a fellow South African and great to meat up with you at WA ! I'm very new to all of this, but having a lot of fun doing it .Paul reminds me of one of my English teachers way back when in 'lekka" ol' SA.........keep up the good work Paul , there's always something new to learn.
RandyKR Premium
You should try to don' t lett it buggya so much.
teacup Premium
Another one that bothers me is the misuse of the words I and me. Please clarify for those who obviously don't know any better.
mamalama Premium
As a home-school mom, I deal with grammar issues pretty regularly but I didn't have the guts to create grammar lessons for the WA community. This is a great service to many. Thanks a lot!
jespinola Premium
Interesting.. I will check my grammar :)
techhound Premium Plus
Hey Paul, great lesson. How about "Yore" being added to the last section? LOL.

Best Regards,
Paul Dean Premium
I'll do "yore" when I do "y'all". (No I won't).
techhound Premium Plus
LOL. Nice!