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10.15: Lesson Thirty-nine

Created by: CK-12

Other Uses for Apostrophes

1. We use apostrophes in words other than contractions. We also use them in the suffix that shows possession: -'s. Look at these two sentences:

He stepped on the dog's tail.

He stepped on the tail of the dog.

The two sentences say the same thing. They both say that someone stepped on the tail that belonged to, or was part of, the dog. The suffix -'s is used to show that something belongs to, or is possessed by, or is part of, someone or something else, and -'s is called the possessive suffix.

2. Most of the time we show possession by adding -'s to a singular noun. Add -'s to each word in the ‘Noun’ column and write the possessive noun in the blank in the ‘Sentence’ colum:

Noun Sentence
dog He stepped on the dog's tail.
gnat She was no bigger than a gnat's eyelash.
knight The knight's horse was very tired.
funnel He tried pouring water into the funnel's big end.
cinnamon She does not like cinnamon's taste.
dictionary The dictionary's cover was red.
candidate The candidate's speech was very inspiring.
dinner They could hardly wait for the dinner's end.
immigrant The immigrant's name was Antonio.
island The island's beaches were all white sand.
knife They both tried to grab the knife's handle.
columnist The columnist's work was very good.
autumn They both looked forward to autumn's arrival.
chemical She said that the chemical's smell was very bad.
children The children's laughter led us to the playground.
candle The candle's light was too dim for reading.

3. When we show possession in a plural noun that ends in <\mathrm{s}>, we usually just add an apostrophe with no extra <\mathrm{s}>. A plural noun that shows possession is called a plural possessive noun . In the ‘Plural Nouns’ column write the plural form of the noun given in the ‘Singular Noun’ column. Then form the plural possessive and fill in the blank in the sentence, as we have done with the first one:

Singular Nouns Plural Nouns Sentences with Plural Possessive Nouns
dog dog They stepped on both dogs' tails.
lamb lambs We couldn't find the two lambs' mothers
diamond diamonds The three diamonds' price was amazing
thumb thumbs Both of his thumbs' joints were swollen
campaign campaigns His two campaigns' total cost was very high
bunny bunnies The three bunnies' eyes were bright pink.
poem poems She disliked all of his poems' rhythms..
statement statements The two statements' meaning was not clear
element elements The chemical elements' names confused him.
teammate teammates The teammates' shouts filled the locker room
knee knees Both knees' strength had not yet returned.
hymn hymns 1 don't know any of the hymns' titles.

4. Each of the following sentences requires either a singular or a plural possessive noun. For each sentence decide whether it takes a singular or a plural possessive and then add the proper form in the blank:

Singular Nouns Sentence
dog Both dogs' owners were very upset.
lamb One lamb's leg was injured.
child We could hear all three children's laughter.
knife All of our knives' blades are rusty and dull.
dictionary Both dictionaries' bindings were broken.
autumn Autumn's colors were beautiful this year.
chemical The seven chemicals' smells were very strange.
columnist Both columnists' writing was very good.

Teaching Notes.

Item 1. The treatment of possessives is made very simple here, primarily because it seems better to get the basic pattern straight in the youngsters' minds, since that basic pattern will hold the vast majority of the time. It is true, however, that many writers form the possessive of singular nouns that end in [s] or [z] sounds by simply adding an apostrophe, with no extra <\mathrm{s}>: “for conscience' sake” or “the class' behavior.” But usage varies, and some people would write, for instance, “the class's behavior,” on the grounds that the suffix is pronounced in the phrase, and class's does a better job of showing that pronunciation than does class’. Unless the question comes up, I'd suggest letting the complexities go until the youngsters have clearly mastered the basic pattern.

Item 2. Notice that we add -'s to plural nouns that do not end in <\mathrm{s}> - as, for instance, with children, children's. The singular possessive of knife is knife's; its plural possessive is knive's, both with - 's.

When -s is added to singular nouns like dictionary, the usual <y>-to <\mathrm{i}> change does not occur; it's dictionary's not *dictionarie's. However, when the apostrophe is added to plural nouns, the <y>-to-<\mathrm{i}> change occurs when the plural is formed, before the possessive apostrophe is added: dictionary > dictionaries > dictionaries' .

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