How to use apostrophes in English

By: English Jade - Learn English (engVid)

Hello, I'm Jade. What we're talking about today is how to use apostrophes. So, I know there's going to be a few native speakers watching this video.

It really is time to learn how to use apostrophes correctly. It's not that hard. There are a few simple rules and we're going to talk about them today. We'll start with the easy stuff, and eventually we'll get to the more advanced rules, but you'll probably never need to use the more advanced rules.

But anyway, we'll get there in the second part of the lesson. So what I want to start with is mentioning my school name. "Haberdashers Askes Hatcham College". This is where I learnt how to use apostrophes. But at first, I cheated because I've got a really..

Had a really long school name and I always remember needing to write this on exam papers. But I think when I... When I started the school, I probably didn't know how to use apostrophes so I memorized where the apostrophes went. I didn't understand why they went there, but I memorized them. So the apostrophes were like this: "Haberdashers'" and "Aske's". I'm going to explain why. So what's "Haberdashers'"? A "haberdasher" is an old-fashioned word for somebody who makes garments, makes clothes, and all together, they were... They were together in what's called a trade guild.

How to use apostrophes in English

And this is quite an old-fashioned thing now; maybe doesn't really exist so much, but they had some charitable objectives. And so they were a group of these haberdasher people and one of them was a man called "Robert Aske," so this is somebody's name; person. And "Hatcham" is a place in London, and "College" is quite a poshy name for a school. So you put all those words together and that's my school. But let's talk about: why these apostrophes? So, the apostrophe is outside the "s" here because we're talking about more than one haberdasher, that's the rule; more than one thing, and possession - the apostrophe goes on the outside. Why the apostrophe here? When the possession belongs... One thing belongs to one person, we put the apostrophe before the "s". So the school belongs to Aske, Mr. Aske so that's why the apostrophe is there.

Maybe that's confusing. Let's break it down and look at the rules one-by-one using apostrophes. So, number one: possession. Another meaning of possession is when... When you lose your mind, you're taken over by something.

But the more... The meaning I'm talking about here is when something belongs to you; when you own something. So here's a man, here's his car. "The man's car is there." This sentence means: the car belonging to the man. And to show possession, I put the apostrophe before the "s". I'm talking about just one man, so the apostrophe goes before the "s". And same really in these other examples: "That's George's car." Why..? Why one here? Well, here, we're not talking about apostrophes and possessions, this is something else. That means: "That is". That means something else. This is an apostrophe with possession. His name is George, it's a car belonging to George.

"That's George's car." And to show something belongs to someone, when we've got a name, we put the apostrophe after their name and then we put the "s" there. And we don't... We can also do it with places. So we've got: "London's best fish and chips." The best fish and chips belonging to London, and again, we do apostrophe, "s". So when we're talking about possession, that's quite clear. It's okay, yeah? But now we have an exception, and sometimes there's a lot of confusion about this and sometimes people get quite annoyed. But what I am going to say is that there are two... There are two ways to show possession when the name ends with an "s". So it's preference really; some people prefer this way, some people prefer this way. All you need to do is just pick one and be standard, always... If you pick one, just use that way all the time.

Don't... Definitely don't do it one way in an essay and then get a bit scared and do it a different way because you'll be wrong then. You need to pick... You definitely need to pick a way. So, "Chris" is a name ending in "s".

So we can... I don't like saying this, but we can say the girlfriend belonging to Chris by putting the apostrophe on the outside of the "s". "She's Chris' girlfriend." So it's... Although, in grammar, it means the same as these examples, here we're not putting the extra "s". So that brings us to the second example. Here's a... Here's a common Welsh name: "Jones", it ends in "s". So, you might choose to show possession when the name ends in "s" by putting apostrophe "s" on your name, you can do that as well. So there are two options here. "He is Mr. Jones's business partner." The business partner belonging to Mr.

Jones. When we come back, we've got more rules for using apostrophes and to show possession. Are you ready for the advanced rules of apostrophes? Are you sure you're ready? You can do it. Okay, for collective nouns... What's a "collective noun"? A collective noun is one that we don't put "s" with, they're... They have their own words already. So we don't say "womens" with an "s" because "women" means more than one, that's what a collective noun is. "Men" means more than one man, and "children" means more than one child. So they're a little bit different to just a regular noun where you can just put "s" on the end.

So when we have a collective noun, we have a different apostrophe rule. So what we do is we put the collective noun down, and then we do apostrophe "s". It's not that hard. "The women's group meet weekly." This means the group belonging to the women, more than one woman.

Next sentence: "The men's toilets are disgusting." You bet they are, not that I go in them. More than one man and toilets belonging to more than one man. We put "men" and then apostrophe "s", as I said before. And last example: "The children's department is upstairs." The place where you can go and buy children's things, delightful children's clothing and toys and stuff. The department belonging to the children is upstairs so we put the collective noun and then apostrophe "s" to show that possession.

Let's compare the collective nouns apostrophe rules to just normal nouns where we put an "s" to show more than one. So we have one boy and "boys" means more than one boy; it could be two boys, it could be, you know... It could be 100 boys. So how do we show possession for more than one boy? "The boys' school is excellent." No full stop. This means the school belonging to more than one boy. There would be more than three boys in the boys' school. Or maybe it... It could have two meanings, it could be the general school belonging to the boys or maybe if you were talking about two of your children and you had two boys, you could say it like this: "The boys' school is excellent." Our next example: ladies.

We have one lady and the plural of "lady" is "ladies". And these are some ladies doing yoga. "The ladies' yoga class has started." Again, because we already have an "s", we just put the apostrophe on the outside of the "s". And that's that really. Now, we're getting to the apostrophe rules you might not use, but let's have a look at them. "Tom and Pete's friend Shaun." What does that mean? Well, there's... There's one... There's one Shaun and he's equally a friend of Tom and Pete.

But we don't... We don't put apostrophe "s" there, we just do it once. We just put it on the second name when we want to show that the possession is equal to both of the... Both of the subjects. So one Shaun, equally a friend of Tom, equally a friend of Pete - and that's how we show it with apostrophes. What's about this one then? "Lulu's and Angela's boyfriends." What does that mean? Well, this is a kind of example where you need to get it right because it has quite different meanings. This sentence means that Lulu has a boyfriend. This is Lulu's boyfriend, he's saying: "Where's Lulu?" And this is Angela's boyfriend. They're two separate guys, two separate girls.

So if I do that... If I... If I take the apostrophe "s" away there, then they share one boyfriend. I mean some people do that, but you want to make sure you've got your grammar right there because you might be confused. So if possession is two separate things in your list, you have to do apostrophe "s" for each subject.

Let's look now at... What are these called? Compound nouns. Compound nouns, when there's more than one word that go together to make a noun. So we have the example: "mother in law". And "mother in law" is singular here, so how do we show possession? There are three words, where does the apostrophe go? "His mother in law's party." One mother in law, one party. And so we put the apostrophe "s" there and that shows us that we're just talking about one mother in law. It's just one woman having a party, his mother in law's party. Whereas if you have a plural compound noun, first what you need to do is write your compound noun down which would..

Which in a singular would be: "brother in law" and to make it a plural, you put the plural on the first word there. So here we have "brothers in law". If I wanted to make "mother in law" plural, I would say: "mothers in law." No... No... No "s" here, don't need an "s" there. Just one "s" after the first word.

Then we need to put in our apostrophe. Where do we put it? "The brothers in law's company." So we put the "s" there before, that doesn't mean we put the apostrophe there. We put the apostrophe on the last word; the same as the example for the singular. "The brothers in law's company." There are... There are two brothers in law, they've got different wives, and they have a company together. That's what that sentence means. Now there's just one important thing that you need to know - especially you native speakers out there. Important! These pronouns don't take apostrophes: "hers", "theirs", "yours", "whose", "ours". They don't take apostrophes at the end of the word, they don't take apostrophes like that before the "s", they just don't.

So you need to be... You need to watch out for that. You could... You could make a terrible apostrophe mistake and you don't want to do that. So yeah, we're done with apostrophes now. But especially with apostrophes, it's good to practice.

You've listened, you've got a general idea, but it's really good to practice this so I urge you to go and do the quiz for this one. Go to the engVid website. Do the quiz, 10 questions. Try to get 10 out of 10. If you don't get 10 out of 10, come back and watch this video again in a couple of days, try again. And if you like my video and my teaching, well, why not subscribe? You can subscribe on my engVid channel and on my second channel; I've got two channels. And yeah, that would be great. So until next time, yeah. See... See you later.

Okay, bye.

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