Other than contractions, we also use those silly apostrophes for showing possession. But there are weird rules about what to do when a word ends in s, or if it’s plural, or of the possessed noun of plural… So, let’s get that straightened out.
At its most basic, the apostrophe is used like normal with a singular subject. This is true no matter how many kittens or bikes are owned.
The child’s shoe. (one child owns one shoe)
The child’s shoes. (one child owns many shoes)
The cat’s kittens. (one cat owns many kittens)
The cat’s kitten. (one cat owns one kitten)
But the big question! What if your singular subject ends in an “s”? The answer:
Technically correct: James’s bike.
Still generally accepted: James’ bike.
So, both are okay.
Instead of one child or one cat, what if something belongs to a group? Isn’t this the point where apostrophes go at the end? Well, sometimes.
When the plural form doesn’t end in “s,” things proceed as normal:
The children’s shoe. (many children own the same shoe)
The children’s shoes. (many children own many shoes)
The women’s magazine. (many women own the same magazine)
The women’s magazines. (many women own many magazines)
If the plural form does in in “s,” then you get fancy with your apostrophes:
The boys’ bike. (many boys own one bike)
The boys’ bikes. (many boys own many bikes)
The cats’ toy. (many cats own one toy)
The cats’ toys. (many cats own many toys)
If you’ve got multiple subjects listed separately, the last name listed gets a normal ’s, but only if both items belong to that person.
Alice and Audrey’s room. (they share the room)
Alice’s and Audrey’s rooms. (they have their own rooms)
Satine and James’s toys. (they share all the toys)
Satine’s and James’s toys. (they have their own separate toys)
If you’re talking about a family and referring to them by their last name, first make the last name plural. Then add the apostrophe.
Leona > Leonas > the Leonas’ house.
Jones > Joneses > the Joneses’ cars.
Roberts > Robertses > The Robertses’ dogs.
Patterson > Pattersons > The Pattersons’ patio.
But only use that when the family is owning something. “We are the Leonas” shouldn’t have any apostrophes.
Words that are already possessive don’t need any form of apostrophe.
Incorrect: Her book. It is her’s.
Correct: Her book. It is hers.
Incorrect: Your phone. It is your’s.
Correct: Your phone. It is yours.
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Here are three elements we often see in town names:
If a town ends in “-by”, it was originally a farmstead or a small village where some of the Viking invaders settled. The first part of the name sometimes referred to the person who owned the farm - Grimsby was “Grim’s village”. Derby was “a village where deer were found”. The word “by” still means “town” in Danish.
If a town ends in “-ing”, it tells us about the people who lived there. Reading means “The people of Reada”, in other words “Reada’s family or tribe”. We don’t know who Reada was, but his name means “red one”, so he probably had red hair.
If a town ends in “-caster” or “-chester”, it was originally a Roman fort or town. The word comes from a Latin words “castra”, meaning a camp or fortification. The first part of the name is usually the name of the locality where the fort was built. So Lancaster, for example, is “the Roman fort on the River Lune”.