Get excited! It’s time for another Grammar Girl article! Today we’re talking about apostrophes; a grammatical obstacle that, while seemingly simple, are very tricky for many people.
It’s vs. Its
I often see people crisscross the uses of these words. Mostly, folks over-correct by using “it’s” inappropriately.
First off, remember this: Except in the case possession, apostrophes are used to replace a letter. I’ll explain possession a little later. But just remember, in the case of “it’s” and “its,” an apostrophe is NOT needed for the possessive.
So, “it’s” is only used when meaning, “ it is.”
It’s raining today.
I love when it’s sunny.
It’s a boy!
“Its” is used in every other case.
“I like your dog. What is its name?” Many people would write “it’s,” in an attempt to make it possessive, but it’s not necessary.
Being spontaneous has its advantages.
Don’t take the bird out of its cage!
Possession vs. Plural
So we all know that apostrophes are used to show possession.
Whose ball is that?
The ball is Billy’s.
This is something I feel most people understand; however, I see many people use apostrophes to make a word plural—and this is not correct.
Two Tuesday’s ago I was sick. NO apostrophe is needed.
Two Tuesdays ago I was sick.
The Freeman’s are a fun family.
The Freemans are a fun family.
Would you accept IOU’s?
Would you accept IOUs?
So, next time you’re making a word plural, simply add an “s” and forego the ‘s, as this is actually making that word possessive, not plural.
Whose vs. Who’s
Just like with “it’s” and “its,” the key here is to remember the apostrophe is replacing a letter. Just like in the previous example, the apostrophe is replacing the “I” in “is.”
So, “who’s” is merely “who is.”
Who’s going to the party?
Who’s teaching that class?
If you’re here then who’s watching the store?
Whose is the possessive adjective for “who.”
Whose purse is this?
Whose is whose?
If this is yours then whose is this?
I once had a teacher tell us, “every time you misuse an apostrophe, a puppy dies.” If you force yourself to believe this, it will make you think twice before using or omitting an apostrophe—and before you know it, these simple rules will become engrained in your puppy-saving soul!