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The apostrophe (, although often rendered as '), is a mark, and sometimes a mark, in languages that use the or certain other alphabets. In English, it serves three purposes:Quirk, Geenbaum, Leech & Svartvik (1985) A Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language, p. 1636, Longman, London & New York, ISBN 0-582-51734-6.
  • The marking of the omission of one or more letters (as in the of do not to don’t).
  • The marking of (as in the cat’s whiskers, or in one month's time).
  • The marking by some as of written items that are not words established in English (as in P's and Q's). (This is considered incorrect by others; see . The use of the apostrophe to form plurals of proper words, as in apple’s, banana’s, etc., is universally considered incorrect.)

According to the ( OED), ‘apostrophe’ comes ultimately from ἡ ἀπόστροφος προσῳδία ( hē apóstrophos prosōidía, “the ‘turning away’, or elision”), through and ."The English form apostrophe is due to its adoption via French and its current pronunciation as four syllables is due to a confusion with the rhetorical device " (W. S. Allen, Vox Graeca. The pronunciation of classical Greek, 3rd edition, 1988. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, p. 100, note 13).

The apostrophe looks the same as a , although they have different meanings. The apostrophe also looks similar to, but is not the same as the ( ′ ), which is used to indicate measurement in feet or arcminutes, as well as for various mathematical purposes, and the (  ), which represents a glottal stop in Polynesian languages. Such incorrect substitutes as (acute) and (grave) are not uncommon in unprofessional texts, where an ambiguous treatment of the apostrophe in (as ) is a major factor of this confusion.

English language usage

Historical development
The apostrophe was introduced into English in the 16th century in imitation of French practice. ξ1

French practice
Introduced by (1529), ξ2 the apostrophe was used in place of a vowel letter to indicate (as in l’heure in place of la heure). It was frequently used in place of a final e (which was still pronounced at the time) when it was elided before a vowel, as in un’ heure. Modern French has restored the spelling une heure.Alfred Ewert, The French Language, 1933, Faber & Faber, London, p 119

Early English practice
From the 16th century, following French practice, the apostrophe was used when a vowel letter was omitted either because of incidental ( I’m for I am) or because the letter no longer represented a sound ( lov’d for loved). English spelling retained many that were not pronounced as , notably verb endings ( -est, -eth, -es, -ed) and the noun ending -es, which marked either plurals or possessives (also known as ; see , below). So apostrophe followed by s was often used to mark a plural, especially when the noun was a (and especially a word ending in a, as in the two comma’s).

The use of has continued to the present day, but significant changes have been made to the and uses. By the 18th century, apostrophe s was regularly used for all forms, even when the letter e was not omitted (as in the gate’s height). This was regarded as representing the singular -es. The use was greatly reduced, but a need was felt to mark . The solution was to use an apostrophe after the s (as in girls’ dresses). However, this was not universally accepted until the mid-19th century.

Possessive apostrophe
The apostrophe is used to indicate . This convention distinguishes possessive singular forms ( Bernadette’s, flower’s, glass’s, one’s) from simple plural forms ( Bernadettes, flowers, glasses, ones), and both of those from possessive plural forms ( Bernadettes', flowers', glasses', ones'). For singulars, the modern possessive or inflection is a survival from in Old English, and the apostrophe originally marked the loss of the old e (for example, lambes became lamb’s).

General principles for the possessive apostrophe
Summary of rules for most situations

  • Possessive personal pronouns, serving as either noun-equivalents or adjective-equivalents, do not use an apostrophe, even when they end in s. The complete list of those ending in the letter s or the corresponding sound /s/ or /z/ but not taking an apostrophe is ours, yours, his, hers, its, theirs, and whose.
  • Other pronouns, singular nouns not ending in s, and plural nouns not ending in s all take ’s in the possessive: e.g., someone’s, a cat’s toys, women’s.
  • Plural nouns already ending in s take only an apostrophe after the pre-existing s when the possessive is formed: e.g., three cats’ toys.

Basic rule (singular nouns)

For most singular nouns the ending 's is added; e.g., the cat’s whiskers.

  • If a singular noun ends with an s-sound (spelt with -s, -se, for example), practice varies as to whether to add or the apostrophe alone. A widely accepted practice is to follow whichever spoken form is judged better: the boss's shoes, Mrs Jones' hat (or Mrs Jones's hat, if that spoken form is preferred). In many cases, both spoken and written forms differ between writers. (See details .)

Basic rule (plural nouns)
When the noun is a normal plural, with an added s, no extra s is added in the possessive; so the neighbours' garden (where there is more than one neighbour) is correct rather than the neighbours's garden.
  • If the plural is not one that is formed by adding s, an s is added for the possessive, after the apostrophe: children's hats, women's hairdresser, some people's eyes (but compare some peoples' recent emergence into nationhood, where peoples is meant as the plural of the singular people). These principles are universally accepted.
  • A few English nouns have plurals that are not spelled with a final s but nevertheless end in an /s/ or a /z/ sound: mice (plural of mouse; also in compounds like , ), (when used as the plural of die), pence (a plural of penny, with compounds like sixpence that now tend to be taken as singulars). In the absence of specific exceptional treatment in style guides, the possessives of these plurals are formed by adding an apostrophe and an s in the standard way: seven 's tails were found, the dice's last fall was a seven, his few pence's value was not enough to buy bread. These would often be rephrased, where possible: the last fall of the dice was a seven. Pease as an old plural of pea is indeterminate: Lentils' and pease's use in such dishes was optional. Nouns borrowed from French ending in -eau, -eu, -au, or -ou sometimes have alternative plurals that retain the French -x: beaux or beaus; bureaux or bureaus; adieux or adieus; fabliaux or fabliaus; choux or chous. The x in these plurals is often pronounced. If it is, then (in the absence of specific rulings from style guides) the plural possessives are formed with an apostrophe alone: the beaux' or appearance at the ball; the bureaux' or responses differed. If the x is not pronounced, then in the absence of special rulings the plurals are formed with an apostrophe followed by an s: the beaux's appearance; the bureaux's responses; their adieux's effect was that everyone wept. See also , below, and attached notes.

Basic rule (compound nouns)
Compound nouns have their singular possessives formed with an apostrophe and an added s, in accordance with the rules given above: the Attorney-General's husband; the ' prerogative; this Minister for Justice's intervention; her father-in-law's new wife.
  • In such examples, the plurals are formed with an s that does not occur at the end: e.g., attorneys-general. A problem therefore arises with the possessive plurals of these compounds. Sources that rule on the matter appear to favour the following forms, in which there is both an s added to form the plural, and a separate s added for the possessive: the attorneys-general's husbands; successive Ministers for Justice's interventions; their fathers-in-law's new wives. Style Guide, US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics; The United States Government Printing Office Style Manual 2000; The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS), 5.25: "The possessive of a multiword compound noun is formed by adding the appropriate ending to the last word {parents-in-law's message}." Because these constructions stretch the resources of punctuation beyond comfort, in practice they are normally reworded: interventions by successive Ministers for Justice.CMOS, 7.25: "If plural compounds pose problems, opt for of. ... the professions of both my daughters-in-law." ''Is the English Possessive Truly a Right-Hand Phenomenon?

Joint and separate possession
A distinction is made between joint possession ( Jason and Sue’s e-mails: the e-mails of both Jason and Sue), and separate possession ( Jason’s and Sue’s e-mails: both the e-mails of Jason and the e-mails of Sue). Style guides differ only in how much detail they provide concerning these. , 5.27; , §4.2, p. 64; Gregg Reference Manual, §642. Their consensus is that if possession is joint, only the last possessor has possessive inflection; in separate possession all the possessors have possessive inflection. If, however, any of the possessors is indicated by a pronoun, then for both joint and separate possession all of the possessors have possessive inflection ( his and her e-mails; his, her, and Anthea’s e-mails; Jason’s and her e-mails; His and Sue’s e-mails; His and Sue’s wedding; His and Sue’s weddings).

Note that in cases of joint possession, the above rule does not distinguish between a situation in which only one or more jointly possessed items perform a grammatical role and a situation in which both one or more such items and a non-possessing entity independently perform that role. Although verb number suffices in some cases ("Jason and Sue’s dog has porphyria.") and context suffices in others ("Jason and Sue’s e-mails rarely exceed 200 characters in length."), number and grammatical position often prevent a resolution of ambiguity:

  • Where multiple items are possessed and context is not dispositive, a rule forbidding distribution of the possessive merely shifts ambiguity: suppose that Jason and Sue had one or more children who died in a car crash and that none of Jason's children by anyone other than Sue were killed. Under a rule forbidding distribution of the joint possessive, writing "Jason and Sue’s children died in the crash" (rather than "Jason’s and Sue’s children") eliminates the implication that Jason lost children of whom Sue was not the mother, but it introduces ambiguity as to whether Jason himself was killed.

  • Moreover, if only one item is possessed, the rule against distribution of the joint possessive introduces ambiguity (unless the happens to resolve it): when read in light of a rule requiring distribution, the sentence "Jason and Sue’s dog died after being hit by a bus" makes clear that the dog belonged to Sue alone and that Jason survived or was not involved, whereas a rule prohibiting distribution forces ambiguity as to both whether Jason (co-)owned the dog and whether he was killed.

With other punctuation; compounds with pronouns
If the word or compound includes, or even ends with, a punctuation mark, an apostrophe and an s are still added in the usual way: "’s railway station"; " Awaye!’s Paulette Whitten recorded Bob Wilson’s story";This example is quoted from; see , 7.18. Washington, D.C.'s museums,This example is quoted from The Gregg Reference Manual, 10th edition, 2005, paragraph 641. assuming that the prevailing style requires full stops in D.C.
  • If the word or compound already includes a possessive apostrophe, a double possessive results: Tom’s sisters’ careers; the head of marketing’s husband’s preference; the best dog’s death. Many style guides, while allowing that these constructions are possible, advise rephrasing: the head of marketing’s husband prefers that .... If an original apostrophe, or apostrophe with s, occurs at the end, it is left by itself to do double duty: Our employees are better paid than McDonald’s employees; Standard & Poor’s indices are widely used: the fixed forms of and already include possessive apostrophes. For similar cases involving geographical names, see .
  • Similarly, the possessives of all phrases whose wording is fixed are formed in the same way:
    • ""’s inclusion on the album
    • ’s latest CD
    • ’ drummer, Tom Callaghan (only the second apostrophe is possessive)
    • ’ first track is called "Joyriders".This is correct even though the possessive word hers is usually spelled without an apostrophe; see below in this section; His ’n’ Hers’s first track is theoretically possible but unlikely unless an extra sibilant is actually pronounced after hers.
    • Was success greater, or ?Most sources are against continuing the used in such titles to the apostrophe and the s.
For complications with foreign phrases and titles, see .
Time, money, and similar
An apostrophe is used in time and money references, among others, in constructions such as one hour’s respite, two weeks’ holiday (optional apostrophe), a dollar’s worth, five pounds’ worth (optional apostrophe), one mile’s drive from here. This is like an ordinary possessive use. For example, one hour’s respite means a respite of one hour (exactly as the cat’s whiskers means the whiskers of the cat). Exceptions are accounted for in the same way: three months pregnant (in modern usage, one says neither pregnant of three months, nor one month(’)s pregnant).

Possessive pronouns and adjectives
No apostrophe is used in the following possessive pronouns and adjectives: yours, his, hers, ours, its, theirs, and whose.

The possessive of it was originally it’s, and many people continue to write it this way, though the apostrophe was dropped in the early 1800s and authorities are now unanimous that it’s can be only a contraction of it is or it has. its. Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.See for example . Not one of the other sources listed on this page supports the use of it’s as a possessive form of it. For example, U.S. President used it’s as a possessive in his instructions dated 20 June 1803 to Lewis for his preparations for his great expedition.Frank Bergon,"The Journals of Lewis & Clark",(Penguin, New York, 1989, pages xxiv foll.

All other possessive pronouns ending in s do take an apostrophe: one’s; everyone’s; somebody’s, nobody else’s, etc. With plural forms, the apostrophe follows the s, as with nouns: the others’ husbands (but compare They all looked at each other’s husbands, in which both each and other are singular).

Importance for disambiguation
Each of these four phrases (listed in ’s ) has a distinct meaning:
  • My sister’s friend’s investments (the investments belonging to a friend of my sister)
  • My sister’s friends’ investments (the investments belonging to several friends of my sister)
  • My sisters’ friend’s investments (the investments belonging to a friend of several of my sisters)
  • My sisters’ friends’ investments (the investments belonging to several friends of several of my sisters)

, on being challenged to produce a sentence whose meaning depended on a possessive apostrophe, came up with:

  • Those things over there are my husband’s. ( Those things over there belong to my husband.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands’. ( Those things over there belong to several husbands of mine.)
  • Those things over there are my husbands. ( I'm married to those men over there.)Fynes, Jane. (26 April 2007) Courier Mail, Little things that matter. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.

Singular nouns ending with an “s” or “z” sound
This subsection deals with singular nouns pronounced with a sound at the end: /s/ or /z/. The spelling of these ends with -s, -se, -z, -ze, -ce, -x, or -xe.

Many respected authorities recommend that practically all singular nouns, including those ending with a sibilant sound, have possessive forms with an extra s after the apostrophe so that the spelling reflects the underlying pronunciation. Examples include , the , the and . Oxford Dictionaries: "With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud"; MLA Style Manual, 2nd edition, 1998, 3.4.7e: "To form the possessive of any singular proper noun, add an apostrophe and an s"; [8]: "Grammarians (such as Hart, Fowler, Swan and Lynne Truss) and other authorities, such as the Guardian and Economist styleguides, agree that the -'s form should follow all singular nouns, regardless of whether they end in an -s or not."; The Economist's Style Guide; makes the same rule, with only sketchily presented exceptions. Such authorities demand possessive singulars like these: Senator Jones's umbrella; Tony Adams's friend. Rules that modify or extend the standard principle have included the following:

  • If the singular possessive is difficult or awkward to pronounce with an added sibilant, do not add an extra s; these exceptions are supported by , Style Guide. The Guardian. Style Guide,[11]: "For most singular nouns, add an apostrophe and an s (’s) to the end of the word... For names that end with an eez sound, use an apostrophe alone to form the possessive. Examples: "Ramses’ wife," "Hercules’ muscles," "According to Jones’s review, the computer’s graphics card is its Achilles’ heel." Book of English Usage. The American Heritage Book of English Usage. 8. Word Formation b. Forming Possessives. Such sources permit possessive singulars like these: Socrates' later suggestion; or Achilles' heel if that is how the pronunciation is intended.
  • Classical, biblical, and similar names ending in a sibilant, especially if they are , do not take an added s in the possessive; among sources giving exceptions of this kind are Online Style Guide - A. The Times Online (16 December 2005). and The Elements of Style, which make general stipulations, and , Vanderbilt University's Style Guide. which mentions only and Jesus. As a particular case, Jesus'  is very commonly written instead of Jesus's – even by people who would otherwise add 's in, for example, James's or Chris's. Jesus'  is referred to as "an accepted liturgical archaism" in .

However, some contemporary writers still follow the older practice of omitting the extra s in all cases ending with a sibilant, but usually not when written -x or -xe.According to this older system, possessives of names ending in "-x" or "-xe" were usually spelled without a final "s" even when an /s/ or /z/ was pronounced at the end (e.g. "Alex' brother" instead of "Alex's brother"), but the possessives of nouns (e.g. "the fox's fur") were usually spelled as today with a final "s". Some contemporary authorities such as the Associated Press Stylebook Punctuation | Style Guide | CSU Branding Standards Guide | CSU. Retrieved on 7 April 2013. and recommend or allow the practice of omitting the extra "s" in all words ending with an "s", but not in words ending with other sibilants ("z" and "x"). The Chicago Manual of Style's text: 7.23 An alternative practice. Those uncomfortable with the rules, exceptions, and options outlined above may prefer the system, formerly more common, of simply omitting the possessive s on all words ending in s – hence "Dylan Thomas' poetry," "Maria Callas' singing," and "that business' main concern." Though easy to apply, that usage disregards pronunciation and thus seems unnatural to many. The 15th edition of The Chicago Manual of Style still recommended the traditional practice, which included providing for several exceptions to accommodate spoken usage such as the omission of the extra s after a polysyllabic word ending in a sibilant. The 16th edition of CMOS no longer recommends omitting the extra "s". Chicago Style Q&A: Possessives and Attributives. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.

Similar examples of notable names ending in an s that are often given a possessive apostrophe with no additional s include Dickens and Williams. There is often a policy of leaving off the additional s on any such name, but this can prove problematic when specific names are contradictory (for example, in the and the area of in London). For more details on practice with geographic names, see the relevant section .

Some writers like to reflect standard spoken practice in cases like these with sake: for convenience’ sake, for goodness’ sake, for appearance’ sake, for compromise’ sake, etc. This punctuation is preferred in major style guides. Others prefer to add 's: for convenience's sake.. The Chicago Manual of Style, 7.22: "For...sake expressions traditionally omit the s when the noun ends in an s or an s sound." Oxford Style Manual, 5.2.1: "Use an apostrophe alone after singular nouns ending in an s or z sound and combined with sake: for goodness' sake". Still others prefer to omit the apostrophe when there is an s sound before sake: for morality's sake, but for convenience sake."Practice varies widely in for conscience' sake and for goodness' sake, and the use of an apostrophe in them must be regarded as optional" The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, ed. Burchfield, RW, 3rd edition, 1996, entry for "sake", p. 686, ISBN 0198610211.

The is split on whether a possessive singular noun that ends with s should always have an additional s after the apostrophe, sometimes have an additional s after the apostrophe (for instance, based on whether the final sound of the original word is pronounced /s/ or /z/), or never have an additional s after the apostrophe. The informal majority view (5–4, based on past writings of the justices) has favoured the additional s, but a strong minority disagrees.Starble, Jonathan M. (9 October 2006). Gimme an S: The Robert Court splits over grammar. Last accessed 17 December 2011.

Nouns ending with silent s, x or z
The English possessive of French nouns ending in a silent s, x, or z is rendered differently by different authorities. Some people prefer Descartes' and Dumas', while others insist on Descartes's and Dumas's. Certainly a sibilant is pronounced in these cases; the question addressed here is whether s needs to be added. Similar examples with x or z: Sauce Périgueux's main ingredient is truffle; His 's loss went unnoticed; "Verreaux('s) eagle, a large, predominantly black eagle, Aquila verreauxi ,..." (, entry for "Verreaux", with silent x; see ); in each of these some writers might omit the added s. The same principles and residual uncertainties apply with "naturalised" English words, like Illinois and Arkansas.In February 2007 Arkansas historian Parker Westbrook successfully petitioned State Representative Steve Harrelson to settle once and for all that the correct possessive should not be Arkansas' but Arkansas's ( Arkansas House to argue over apostrophes). Arkansas's Apostrophe Act came into law in March 2007 (ABC News USA, 6 March 2007).

For possessive plurals of words ending in silent x, z or s, the few authorities that address the issue at all typically call for an added s and suggest that the apostrophe precede the s: The Loucheux’s homeland is in the Yukon; Compare the two Dumas’s literary achievements.An apparent exception is The Complete Stylist, Sheridan Baker, 2nd edition 1972, p. 165: "... citizens' rights, the Joneses’ possessions, and similarly The Beaux’ Stratagem." But in fact the x in beaux, as in other such plurals in English, is often already pronounced (see a note to , above); , the title of a play by George Farquhar (1707), originally lacked the apostrophe (see the title page of a 1752 edition); and it is complicated by the following s in stratagem. Some modern editions add the apostrophe (some with an s also), some omit it; and some make a compound with a hyphen: The Beaux-Stratagem. Farquhar himself used the apostrophe elsewhere in the standard ways, for both omission and possession. The possessive of a cited French title with a silent plural ending is uncertain: “ Trois femmes’s long and complicated publication history”,Jacqueline Letzter (1998) Intellectual Tacking: Questions of Education in the Works of Isabelle de Charrière, Rodopi, p. 123, ISBN 9042002905. but " Les noces' singular effect was 'exotic primitive'..." (with nearby sibilants -ce- in noces and s- in singular).Elizabeth A. McAlister (2002) Rara!: Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora, University of California Press, p. 196, ISBN 0520228227. Compare treatment of other titles, .

Guides typically seek a principle that will yield uniformity, even for foreign words that fit awkwardly with standard English punctuation.

Possessives in geographic names
Place names in the United States do not use the possessive apostrophe on federal maps and signs. The , which has responsibility for formal naming of municipalities and geographic features, has deprecated the use of possessive apostrophes since 1890 so as not to show ownership of the place. Only five names of natural features in the U.S. are officially spelled with a genitive apostrophe (one example being ). U.S. Board on Geographic Names: FAQs. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.Cavella, C, and Kernodle, RA, How the Past Affects the Future: the Story of the Apostrophe.

Australia's also has a no-apostrophe policy, a practice it says goes back to the 1900s and which is generally followed around the country."The apostrophe has been dropped from most Australian place-names and street names: Connells Point; Wilsons Promontory; Browns Lane." The Penguin Working Words: an Australian Guide to Modern English Usage, Penguin, 1993, p. 41.

On the other hand, the United Kingdom has , and (among many others) but , and . London Underground's Piccadilly line has the adjacent stations of in and . These names were mainly fixed in form many years before grammatical rules were fully standardised. While play at a stadium called , and at , London has a (this whole area of London is named after the parish of St James's Church Piccadilly website. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.). The special circumstances of the latter case may be this: the customary pronunciation of this place name is reflected in the addition of an extra -s; since usage is firmly against a doubling of the final -s without an apostrophe, this place name has an apostrophe. This could be regarded by some people as an example of a double genitive: it refers to the park of the parish of St James.

Modern usage has been influenced by considerations of technological convenience including the economy of typewriter ribbons and films, and similar computer character "disallowance" which tend to ignore traditional canons of correctness.E.g., under Naming conventions in Active Directory for computers, domains, sites, and OUs at Microsoft Support Practice in the United Kingdom and Canada is not so uniform. The Cambridge Guide to English Usage, Ed. Peters, P, 2004, p. 43.

Possessives in names of organizations
Sometimes the apostrophe is omitted in the names of clubs, societies, and other organizations, even though the standard principles seem to require it: , but International Aviation Association; International Aviation Womens Association. Retrieved on 7 April 2013. ,Spelled both with and without the apostrophe at the court's own home page; but spelled with the apostrophe in Victorian legislation, such as Magistrates' Court Act, 1989. but . Usage is variable and inconsistent. Style guides typically advise consulting an official source for the standard form of the name (as one would do if uncertain about other aspects of the spelling of the name); some tend towards greater prescriptiveness, for or against such an apostrophe. Gregg Reference Manual, 10th edition, 2003, distinguishes between what it calls possessive and descriptive forms, and uses this distinction in analyzing the problem. From paragraph 628: "a. Do not mistake a descriptive form ending in s for a possessive form: sales effort (sales describes the kind of effort)... b. Some cases can be difficult to distinguish. Is it the girls basketball team or the girls' basketball team? Try substituting an irregular plural like women. You would not say the women basketball team; you would say the women's basketball team. By analogy, the girls' basketball team is correct" italics. (However in this case the phrase in question is not part of the name: the words are not capitalised!) And then this principle is applied to organizations at paragraph 640, where examples are given, including the non-conforming Childrens Hospital, (in Los Angeles): "The names of many organizations, products, and publications contain words that could be considered either possessive or descriptive terms... c. In all cases follow the organization's preference when known." As the case of shows, it is not possible to analyze these forms simply as non-possessive plurals, since women is the only correct plural form of woman.

Possessives in business names
Where a business name is based on a family name it should in theory take an apostrophe, but many leave it out (contrast with ). In recent times there has been an increasing tendency to drop the apostrophe. Names based on a first name are more likely to take an apostrophe, but this is not always the case (contrast Joe's Crab Shack with ). Some business names may inadvertently spell a different name if the name with an s at the end is also a name, such as Parson. A small activist group called the Apostrophe Protection Society's website. (12 February 2013). Retrieved on 7 April 2013. has campaigned for large retailers such as Harrods, , and to reinstate their missing punctuation. A spokesperson for stated, "It has just disappeared over the years. Barclays is no longer associated with the family name." Harrods told to put its apostrophe back. Times Online (21 August 2006). Further confusion can be caused by businesses whose names look as if they should be pronounced differently without an apostrophe, such as , and other companies that leave the apostrophe out of their logos but include it in written text, such as .

Apostrophe showing omission
An apostrophe is commonly used to indicate omitted characters, normally letters:

  • It is used in , such as can't from cannot, it's from it is or it has, and I'll from I will or I shall.In reports of very informal speech 's may sometimes represent does: "Where's that come from?"
  • It is used in , as gov't for government. It may indicate omitted numbers where the spoken form is also capable of omissions, as 70s for 1970s representing seventies for nineteen-seventies. In modern usage, apostrophes are generally omitted when letters are removed from the start of a word, particularly for a . For example, it is not common to write bus (for omnibus), phone ( telephone), net ( Internet). However, if the shortening is unusual, dialectal or archaic, the apostrophe may still be used to mark it (e.g., bout for about, less for unless, twas for it was). Sometimes a misunderstanding of the original form of a word results in an incorrect contraction. A common example: til for until, though till is in fact the original form, and until is derived from it.
    • The spelling fo'c's'le, contracted from the nautical term forecastle, is unusual for having three apostrophes. The spelling bo's'n's (from boatswain's), as in Bo's'n's Mate, also has three apostrophes, two showing omission and one possession. Fo'c's'le may also take a possessive s – as in the fo'c's'le's timbers – giving four apostrophes in one word. gives fo'c's'le as the only shortened form of forecastle, though others are shown in . SOED gives bo's'n as one spelling of bosun, itself a variant of boatswain.
  • It is sometimes used when the normal form of an inflection seems awkward or unnatural; for example, KO'd rather than KOed (where KO is used as a verb meaning "to knock out"); " a spare pince-nez'd man" (cited in , entry for "pince-nez"; pince-nezed is also in citations).
  • In certain colloquial contexts, an apostrophe's function as possessive or contractive can depend on other punctuation.
    • We rehearsed for Friday's opening night. ( We rehearsed for the opening night on Friday.)
    • We rehearsed because Friday's opening night. ( We rehearsed because Friday is opening night. "Friday's" here is a contraction of "Friday is.")
  • use apostrophes in creating the effect of a non-standard pronunciation.

Use in forming certain plurals
An apostrophe is used by some writers to form a for abbreviations, , and symbols where adding just s rather than 's may leave things ambiguous or inelegant. Some specific cases:
  • For groups of years, the apostrophe at the end is unnecessary, since there is no possibility of misreading. For this reason, some style guides prefer 1960s to 1960's (although the latter is noted by at least one source as acceptable in American usage but not in British), Guide to Punctuation, Larry Trask, University of Sussex: "American usage, however, does put an apostrophe here: (A) This research was carried out in 1970s." and 90s or 90s to 90's or 90's.
  • The apostrophe is sometimes used in forming the plural of numbers (for example, 1000's of years); however, as with groups of years, it is unnecessary because there is no possibility of misreading. Most sources are against this usage; an alternative is to write out the numbers as words.
  • The apostrophe is often used in plurals of symbols. Again, since there can be no misreading, this is often regarded as unnecessary, That page has too many &s and #s on it, but this has been deprecated as confusing to the eye.

Use in non-English names
Names that are not strictly native to English sometimes have an apostrophe substituted to represent other characters (see also , below).
  • Anglicised versions of often contain an apostrophe after an O, for example O'Doole.
  • Some and surnames use an apostrophe after an M, for example M'Gregor. The apostrophe here may be seen as marking a contraction where the prefix Mc or would normally appear. (In earlier and meticulous current usage, the symbol is actually – a kind of reversed apostrophe that is sometimes called a turned comma, which eventually came to be written as the letter c, whose shape is similar.)

Use in transliteration
In foreign words, an apostrophe may be used to separate letters or syllables that otherwise would likely be interpreted incorrectly. For example:
  • in the word , a transliteration of , the syllables are as in mus·haf, not mu·shaf
  • in the Japanese name , the apostrophe shows that the pronunciation is shi·n·i·chi ( ), where the letters n () and i () are separate , rather than shi·ni·chi ().
  • in the Chinese romanization, when two are combined to form one word, if the resulting Pinyin representation can be mis-interpreted they should be separated by an apostrophe. For example, 先 (xiān) 西安 (xī'ān).
Furthermore, an apostrophe may be used to indicate a in transliterations. For example:
  • in the Arabic word , a common transliteration of (part of) al-qur'ān, the apostrophe corresponds to the diacritic over the , one of the letters in the
Rather than the apostrophe is sometimes used to indicate a as it sounds and looks like the glottal stop to most English speakers. For example:
  • in the Arabic word for al-kaʿbah, the apostrophe corresponds to the Arabic letter .

Non-standard English use
Failure to observe standard use of the apostrophe is widespread and frequently criticised as incorrect,Truss, p. 41, pp. 48–54. often generating heated debate. The British founder of the earned a 2001 prize for "efforts to protect, promote and defend the differences between plural and possessive". "In praise of apostrophes", BBC News, 5 October 2001 A 2004 report by , a British examination board, stated that "the inaccurate use of the apostrophe is so widespread as to be almost universal". 'Fatal floors' in exam scripts, BBC News, 3 November 2004 A 2008 survey found that nearly half of the UK adults polled were unable to use the apostrophe correctly. Half of Britons struggle with the apostrophe, The Daily Telegraph, 11 November 2008

Superfluous apostrophes ("greengrocers' apostrophes")
Apostrophes used in a non-standard manner to form are known as greengrocers' apostrophes or grocers' apostrophes, often called (spelled) greengrocer's apostrophes greengrocers' apostrophe. Word Spy. Retrieved on 7 April 2013. and grocer's apostrophes. They are sometimes humorously called greengrocers apostrophe's, rogue apostrophes, or idiot's apostrophes (a literal translation of the German word Deppenapostroph, which criticises the misapplication of apostrophes in ). The practice, once common and acceptable (see ), comes from the identical sound of the and forms of most English . It is often criticised as a form of coming from a widespread ignorance of the proper use of the apostrophe or of punctuation in general. , author of , points out that before the 19th century, it was standard orthography to use the apostrophe to form a plural of a foreign-sounding word that ended in a vowel (e. g., banana's, folio's, logo's, quarto's, pasta's, ouzo's) to clarify pronunciation. Truss says this usage is no longer considered proper in formal writing.Truss, pp. 63–65.

The term is believed to have been coined in the middle of the 20th century by a teacher of languages working in , at a time when such mistakes were common in the handwritten signs and advertisements of (e. g., Apple's a pound, Orange's 1/6 a pound). Some have argued that its use in mass communication by employees of well-known companies has led to the less literate assuming it to be correct and adopting the habit themselves.

The same use of apostrophe before -s forms is sometimes made by non-native speakers of English. For example, in Dutch, the apostrophe is inserted before the s when pluralising most words ending in a vowel or y for example, baby's (English babies) and radio's (English "radios"). This often produces so-called "" errors when carried over into English. ξ3 has been formalised in some pseudo-. For example, the French word (from English pin) is used (with the apostrophe in both singular and plural) for . Similarly, there is an football club called (after such British clubs as ), a Japanese dance group called , and a Japanese band called the Titan Go King's. Titan Go King's, at

There is a tendency to drop apostrophes in many commonly used names such as , St Johns Lane,A search on for "St Johns Lane" in the UK, with or without apostrophe, finds the apostrophe omitted in 5 instances out of 25 and so on.

In 2009, a resident in was accused of after he painted apostrophes on road signs that had spelt St John's Close as St Johns Close.Fernandez, Colin, 'Punctuation hero' branded a vandal for painting apostrophes on street signs, , accessed 19 August 2009

UK supermarket chain omits the mark where standard practice would require it. Signs in Tesco advertise (among other items) . In his book , author lambasts Tesco for this, stating that "the mistake is inexcusable, and those who make it are linguistic Neanderthals."Bill Bryson, "Troublesome Words," Penguin, second edition 1987, p. 177

Advocates of greater or lesser use
, a proponent of on phonetic principles, argued that the apostrophe was mostly redundant. He did not use it for spelling cant, hes, etc. in many of his writings. He did, however, allow I'm and it's. George Bernard Shaw, from Pygmalion. W. W. Norton & Company. Retrieved on 7 April 2013. used a slash instead of an apostrophe mark for contractions and did not use an apostrophe at all for possessives. made greater use of apostrophes, and frequently used sha'n't, with an apostrophe in place of the elided "ll" as well as the more usual "o". The apostrophe. (30 June 2007). Retrieved on 7 April 2013. These authors' usages have not become widespread.

Other misuses
The British pop group famously made unconventional use of an apostrophe in its name. Truss comments that "the naming of Hear'Say in 2001 was ... a significant milestone on the road to punctuation anarchy".Truss , on the other hand, omit the apostrophe (though "dexys" can be understood as a plural form of "dexy", rather than a possessive form).

An apostrophe wrongly thought to be misused is in the name of rock band . This apostrophe is often thought to be a mistake; but in fact it marks omission of the letter d. The name comes from the slang for "The Lads".

Over the years, the use of apostrophes has been criticised. called them "uncouth bacilli". In his book American Speech, linguist Steven Byington stated of the apostrophe that "the language would be none the worse for its abolition." Adrian Room in his article "Axing the Apostrophe" argued that apostrophes are unnecessary and context will resolve any ambiguity. In a letter to the English Journal, Peter Brodie stated that apostrophes are "largely decorative...and rarely clarify meaning". Dr. , Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at , says the apostrophe is "a waste of time".

Non-English use

As a mark of elision
In many languages, especially European languages, the apostrophe is used to indicate the of one or more sounds, as in English.
  • In the apostrophe is used to show that a vowel has been omitted from words, especially in different forms of verbs and in some forms of personal pronoun. For example, t'i them (from të i them), m'i mori (from më i mori). It is used too in some of the forms of possessive pronouns, for example: s'ëmës (from së ëmës).
  • In the apostrophe is used to show that letters have been omitted from words. The most common use is in the indefinite article 'n, which is a contraction of een meaning "one" (the number). As the initial e is omitted and cannot be capitalised, if a sentence begins with 'n the second word in the sentence is capitalised. For example: 'n Boom is groen, "A tree is green". In addition, the apostrophe is used for plurals and diminutives where the root ends with certain , e.g. foto's, taxi's, Lulu's, Lulu'tjie, garage's etc. ξ4
  • In , apostrophes are sometimes seen on materials. One might commonly see Ta' mig med ("Take me with you") next to a stand with advertisement leaflets; that would be written Tag mig med in standard orthography. As in German, the apostrophe must not be used to indicate the possessive, except when there is already an s present in the base form, as in Lukas' bog ("the Gospel of Luke").
  • In , the apostrophe is used to indicate omitted characters. For example, the indefinite article een can be shortened to 'n, and the definite article het shortened to 't. When this happens in the first word of a sentence, the second word of the sentence is capitalised. In general, this way of using the apostrophe is considered non-standard, except in 's morgens, 's middags, 's avonds, 's nachts (for des morgens, des middags, des avonds, des nachts: "at morning, at afternoon, at evening, at night"). In addition, the apostrophe is used for plurals where the singulars end with certain , e.g. foto's, taxi's; and for the genitive of proper names ending with these vowels, e.g. Anna's, Otto's. These are in fact elided vowels; use of the apostrophe prevents spellings like fotoos and Annaas.
  • In , the limits the elision mark to the definite article l' (from la) and singular nominative nouns ( kor' from koro, "heart"). This is mostly confined to poetry. Idiomatic phrases such as dank' al (from (kun) danko al, "thanks to") and del' (from de la, "of the") are nonetheless frequent. In-word elision is usually marked with a , as in D-ro (from doktoro, "Dr"). Some early guides used and advocated the use of apostrophes between word parts, to aid recognition of such as gitar'ist'o, "guitarist".
  • In , , , and word sequences such as , (often shortened to maître d, when used in English), and the final vowel in the first word ( de "of", la "the", etc.) is elided because the word that follows it starts with a vowel or a . Similarly, French has qu'il instead of que il ("that he"), c'est instead of ce est ("it is or it's"), and so on. Catalan, French, Italian and Occitan surnames sometimes contain apostrophes of elision, e.g. d'Alembert, D'Angelo.
  • French feminine singular do not undergo elision, but change to the masculine form instead: ma preceding église becomes mon église ("my church").In early French such elisions did occur: m'espée ( ma  espée, modern French mon épée: "my sword"), s'enfance ( sa  enfance, son enfance: "his or her childhood"). But the only modern survivals of this elision with apostrophe are m'amie and m'amour, as archaic and idiomatic alternatives to mon amie and mon amour ("my female friend", "my love"); forms without the apostrophe also used: mamie or ma mie, mamour.
  • standard admits the use of apostrophe ( apóstrofo) for contractions that normally don't use (e.g.: de a = da) it but when the second element is a proper noun, mostly a title: o heroe d'A Odisea (the heroe of the ). They are also used to reproduce oral ellisions and, as stated below, to join (or split) commercial names of popular public stablisments, namely bars and in masculine ( O'Pote, The pot), maybe pretending to remind anglicised versions of .
  • In , when a word ending with a is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, the final vowel of the first word is and the initial vowel of the second word in compensation. When the first word is a , this elision is represented in the orthography with an apostrophe: in taata w'abaana "the father of the children", wa ("of") becomes  w'; in y'ani? ("who is it?"), ye ("who") becomes  y'. But the final vowel of a is always written, even if it is elided in speech: omusajja oyo ("this man"), not * omusajj'oyo, because omusajja ("man") is a polysyllable.
  • In modern printings of , apostrophes are also used to mark elision. Certain Ancient Greek words that end in short vowels elide when the next word starts with a vowel. For example, many Ancient Greek authors would write δ’ ἄλλος ( d'állos) for δὲ ἄλλος ( dè állos) and ἆρ’ οὐ ( âr' ou) for ἆρα οὐ ( âra ou).
  • In , the (׳), often typed as an apostrophe, is used to denote initialisms. A double geresh (״), known by the plural form , is used to denote ; it is inserted before (i.e., to the right of) the last letter of the acronym. Examples: פרופ׳ (abbreviation for פרופסור, "profesor", ''); נ״ב ("nun-bet", ''). The geresh is also used to indicate the elision of a sound; however, this use is much less frequent, and confined to the purpose of imitating a natural, informal utterance, for example: אנ׳לא ("anlo" – short for אני לא, "ani lo", 'I am/do not').
  • In Irish, the past tense of verbs beginning with an F or vowel begins with d' (elision of do), for example do oscail becomes d'oscail ("opened") and do fhill becomes d'fhill ("returned"). The copula is is often elided to 's, and do ("to"), mo ("my") etc. are elided before f and vowels.
  • In modern , the apostrophe marks that a word has been contracted, such as "ha’kke" from "har ikke" (have/has not). Unlike English and French, such elisions are not accepted as part of standard orthography but are used to create a more "oral style" in writing. The apostrophe is also used to mark the genitive for words that end in an -s sound: words ending in -s, -x, and -z, some speakers also including words ending in the sound . As Norwegian doesn't form the plural with -s, there is no need to distinguish between an -s forming the possessive and the -s forming the plural. Therefore we have "mann" (man) and "manns" (man's), without apostrophe, but "los" (naval pilot) and "los’" (naval pilot's). Indicating the possessive for former American Presidents George Bush, whose names end in , could be written as both Bushs (simply adding an -s to the name) and Bush’ (adding an apostrophe to the end of the name).
  • In the apostrophe is also used in some few combinations such as caixa-d'água ("water tower"), galinha-d'angola ("Helmeted Guineafowl"), pau-d'alho (" Gallesia integrifolia"), etc. Portuguese has many contractions between prepositions and articles or pronouns (like na for em a), but these are written without an apostrophe. Portuguese uses a grave accent to indicate an unstressed a has been elided with a following stressed one, so one writes (and says) àquela hora instead of a aquela hora.
  • Modern Spanish no longer uses the apostrophe to indicate elision in standard writing, although it can sometimes be found in older poetry for that purpose.Examples include Nuestras vidas son los ríos / que van a dar en la mar, / qu'es el morir. meaning "Our lives are the rivers / that flow to give to the sea, / which is death." (from Coplas de Don Jorge Manrique por la muerte de su padre, 1477) and ¿ ... qué me ha de aprovechar ver la pintura / d'aquel que con las alas derretidas ...? meaning "... what could it help me to see the painting of that one with the melted wings ...?" (from the 12th sonnet of Garcilazo de la Vega, c. 1500–1536). Instead Spanish writes out the spoken elision in full ( de enero, mi hijo) except for the contraction del for de el, which uses no apostrophe. Spanish also switches to a form that is identical to the masculine article (but is actually a variant of the feminine article) immediately before a feminine noun beginning with a stressed a instead of writing (or saying) an elision: un águila blanca, el águila blanca, and el agua pura but una/la blanca águila and la pura agua. This reflects the origin of the Spanish definite articles from the Latin demonstratives ille/illa/illum.
  • In , the apostrophe marks an elision, such as "på sta'n", short for "på staden" ("in the city"), to make the text more similar to the spoken language. This is relaxed style, fairly rarely used, and would not be used by traditional newspapers in political articles, but could be used in entertainment related articles and similar. The formal way to denote elision in Swedish is by using colon, e.g. S:t Erik for Sankt Erik which is rarely spelled out in full. The apostrophe must not be used to indicate the possessive except - although not mandatory - when there is already an s, x or z present in the base form, as in Lukas' bok.
  • German usage is very similar: an apostrophe is used almost exclusively to indicate omitted letters. It must not be used for plurals or most of the possessive forms (The only exception being the possessive cases of names ending in an s-sound as in Max’ Vater, or "to prevent ambiguities" in all other possessive cases of names as Andrea’s Blumenladen. The latter use is discouraged, while being formally correct); although both usages are widespread, they are deemed incorrect. The German equivalent of greengrocers' apostrophes would be the derogatory Deppenapostroph ("idiots' apostrophe" (See the article in German Wikipedia).
  • uses the apostrophe to mark elision of the definite article yr ("the") following a vowel (a, e, i, o, u, y, w in Welsh), such as i'r tŷ "to the house". It is also used with the particle yn, such as with mae hi'n "she is".

As a glottal stop
Other languages and transliteration systems use the apostrophe or some similar mark to indicate a , sometimes considering it a letter of the alphabet:

The apostrophe represents sounds resembling the glottal stop in the and in some of , including . In typography, this function may be performed by the closing single . In that case, the Arabic letter (ع) is correspondingly transliterated with the opening single quotation mark.

As a mark of palatalization or non-palatalization
Some languages and systems use the apostrophe to mark the presence, or the lack of, .

  • In and , the apostrophe is used between a consonant and a following "soft" () vowel (е, ё, ю, я; Uk. є, ї, ю, я) to indicate that no palatalization of the preceding consonant takes place, and the vowel is pronounced in the same way as at the beginning of the word. It therefore marks a morpheme boundary before /j/, and in Ukrainian, is also occasionally as a "quasi letter". It appears frequently in Ukrainian, as, for instance, in the words: <п'ять> p"jat' 'five', <від'їзд> vid'jizd 'departure', <об'єднаний> ob'jednanyj 'united', <з'ясувати> z'jasuvaty 'to clear up, explain', <п'єса> p'jesa play (drama), etc.Daniel Bunčić (Bonn), "The apostrophe: A neglected and misunderstood reading aid" at the Tübingen University website Linguist List 13.1566, Daniel Bunčić, "Apostrophe rules in languages", from 31 May 2002.
  • In Russian and some derived alphabets the same function is served by the (ъ, formerly called yer). But the apostrophe saw some use as a substitute after 1918, when Soviet authorities enforced an orthographic reform by confiscating type bearing that "letter parasite" from stubborn printing houses in Petrograd. "Лексикон" Валерия Скорбилина Архив выпусков программы. (Archives in Russian)
  • In some Latin transliterations of certain (for , Russian, and ), the apostrophe is used to replace the (ь, indicating palatalization of the preceding consonant), e.g., Русь is transliterated according to the . (The is also used for the same purpose.) Some of these transliteration schemes use a double apostrophe ( " ) to represent the apostrophe in Ukrainian and Belarusian text, e.g. Ukrainian слов’янське ("Slavic") is transliterated as slov"yans’ke.
  • Some orthographies use an apostrophe to indicate palatalization, e.g. n'evvuo ("to give advice"), d'uuri ("just (like)"), el'vüttiä ("to revive").

To separate morphemes
Some languages use the apostrophe to separate the of a word and its , especially if the root is foreign and unassimilated. (For another kind of morphemic separation see , below.)

  • In an apostrophe is sometimes used to join the to words of foreign origin, or to other words that would otherwise look awkward. For example, one would write IP'en to mean "the ". There is some variation in what is considered "awkward enough" to warrant an apostrophe; for instance, long-established words such as firma ("company") or niveau ("level") might be written firma'et and niveau'et, but will generally be seen without an apostrophe. Due to Danish influence, this usage of the apostrophe can also be seen in Norwegian, but is non-standard – a hyphen should be used instead: e.g. CD-en (the CD).
  • In , apostrophes are used in the declension of foreign names or loan words that end in a consonant when written but are pronounced with a vowel ending, e.g. show'ssa ("in a show"), Bordeaux'hun ("to Bordeaux"). For Finnish as well as , there is a closely related .
  • In , apostrophes can be used in the declension of some foreign names to separate the stem from any endings; e.g., Monet' () or Monet'sse () of Monet (name of the famous painter).
  • In , the apostrophe is used exclusively for marking inflections of words and word-like elements (but not – a hyphen is used instead) whose spelling conflicts with the normal rules of inflection. This mainly affects foreign words and names. For instance, one would correctly write Kampania Ala Gore'a for "'s campaign". In this example, Ala is spelt without an apostrophe, since its spelling and pronunciation fit into normal Polish rules; but Gore'a needs the apostrophe, because e disappears from the pronunciation, changing the inflection pattern. This rule is often misunderstood as calling for an apostrophe after all foreign words, regardless of their pronunciation, yielding the incorrect Kampania Al'a Gore'a, for example. The effect is akin to the greengrocers' apostrophe (see above).
  • In , are capitalised and an apostrophe is inserted between the noun and any following , e.g. İstanbul'da ("in "), contrasting with okulda ("in school").
  • In the apostrophe is used with infixed pronouns in order to distinguish them from the preceding word (e.g. a'm chwaer "and my sister" as opposed to am chwaer "about a sister").

Miscellaneous uses in other languages
  • In , the over lowercase t, d, l, and uppercase L resembles an apostrophe: ď, ť, ľ, Ľ. This is especially so in certain common typographic renderings. But it is non-standard to use an apostrophe instead of the caron. There is also l with an acute accent: ĺ, Ĺ. In Slovak the apostrophe is properly used only to indicate in certain words ( tys', as an abbreviated form of ty si ("you are"), or hor' for hore ("up")); however, these elisions are restricted to poetry (with a few exceptions). And the apostrophe is also used before a two-digit year number (to indicate the omission of the first two digits): '87 (usually used for 1987).
  • In , an apostrophe is used for writing in spoken/informal language (when writer wants to express the natural way of informal speech), but it should not be used in formal/serious text. Instead of "řekl" ("he said"), the word "řek'" ("he said") is used, the form "řek'" of the verb "řekl" is an informal way to say "he said" (the meaning is the same), but it helps the text to sound more naturally (as if a friend talked to you informally).
  • In , one of the patterns is the change of a k into a , e.g. keko → keon ("a pile → a pile's"). This hiatus has to be indicated in spelling with an apostrophe if a long vowel or a diphthong would be immediately followed by the final vowel, e.g. ruoko → ruo'on, vaaka → vaa'an. (This is in contrast to compound words, where the equivalent problem is solved with a , e.g. maa-ala, "land area".) Similarly, the apostrophe is used to mark the (contraction) that occurs in poetry, e.g. miss' on for missä on ("where is").
  • In , the combination c'h is used for the consonant (like ch in English Loch Ness), while ch is used for the consonant (as in French chat or English she).
  • In Italian, an apostrophe is sometimes used as a substitute for a or an after a final vowel: in capitals, or when the proper form of the letter is unavailable. So Niccolò might be rendered as Niccolo', or NICCOLO'; perché, as perche', or PERCHE'. This applies only to machine or computer writing, in the absence of a suitable keyboard. This usage is considered incorrect, or at least inelegant, by many.
  • In , an apostrophe after ng shows that there is no sound of after the sound; that is, that the ng is pronounced as in English singer, not as in English finger.
  • In , ng (pronounced ) is used in place of ŋ on keyboards where this character is not available. The apostrophe distinguishes it from the letter combination ng (pronounced ), which has separate use in the language. Compare this with the Swahili usage above.
  • In , one of the uses of the apostrophe is to mark , or consonant length. For example, t't represents , s's , n'n , th'th , and ch'ch (contrasted with , , , , and ).
  • In the (hànyǔ pīnyīn) system of for , an apostrophe is often loosely said to separate syllables in a word where ambiguity could arise. Example: the standard romanization for the name of the city includes an apostrophe to distinguish it from a single-syllable word xian. More strictly, however, it is correct to place an apostrophe only before every a, e, or o that starts a new syllable after the first if it is not preceded by a hyphen or a dash. Examples: , ; but simply , in which the syllables are ji and nan, since the absence of an apostrophe shows that the syllables are not jin and an (contrast ). Apostrophes in Hanyu Pinyin: when and where to use them. Retrieved on 7 April 2013. This is a kind of morpheme-separation marking (see ).
  • In the largely superseded romanization for Standard Chinese, an apostrophe marks of the preceding consonant sound. Example: in tsê (pinyin ze) the consonant represented by ts is unaspirated, but in ts'ê (pinyin ce) the consonant represented by ts' is aspirated.
  • In some systems of romanization for the Japanese, the apostrophe is used between in ambiguous situations, to differentiate between, for example, na and n    a. (This is similar to the practice in Pinyin mentioned above.)
  • In , the (a diacritic similar to the apostrophe and often represented by one) is used for several purposes other than to mark an elision:
    • As an adjacent to letters to show sounds that are not represented in the . Sounds such as (English j as in "job", (English th as in "thigh"), and (English ch as in "check") are indicated using ג, ת, and צ with a (informally "chupchik"). For example, the name George is spelled ג׳ורג׳ in Hebrew (with ג׳ representing the first and last consonants).
    • To denote a (e.g., נ׳, which stands for "50").
    • To denote a Hebrew letter which stands for itself (e.g., מ׳ – the letter ).
    • (a double geresh) to denote a Hebrew letter name (e.g., למ״ד – the letter ).
    • Another (rarer) use of geresh is to denote the last syllable (which in some cases, but not all, is a ) in some words of (e.g., חבר׳ה, מיידל׳ה).
    • In the and the , gershayim were also used to denote foreign words, as well as a means of .
  • In the new adopted in 2000, the apostrophe serves as a to distinguish different phonemes written with the same letter: it differentiates o' (corresponding to Cyrillic ) from o, and g' (Cyrillic ) from g. This avoids the use of special characters, allowing Uzbek to be typed with ease in ordinary on any Latin keyboard. In addition, a postvocalic apostrophe in Uzbek represents the glottal stop phoneme derived from Arabic or , replacing Cyrillic .
  • In English , the apostrophe is used to represent the word the, which is contracted to a more glottal (or "unreleased") /t/ sound. Most users will write in t'barn ("in the barn"), on t'step ("on the step"); and those unfamiliar with Yorkshire speech will often make these sound like intuh barn and ontuh step. A more accurate rendition might be in't barn and on't step, though even this does not truly convey correct Yorkshire pronunciation as the t is more like a .
  • sometimes use O' in their names instead of the standard article O ("The"). gallegos&nomb=O&prov=MADRID&pgpv=1&mode=listadirGalician Restaurantes gallegos, llamadas O en la provincia de Madrid.
  • In standard orthography, it is a letter in its own right (called y'y ɐhɐ) that can appear only between two vowels, and is phonemically realised as either
  • the apostrophe is sometimes used to represent the sound , which can be found on dialectal levels, but not in the Standard Macedonian.
  • In science fiction, the apostrophe is often used in alien names, sometimes to indicate a (for example in ), but also sometimes simply for decoration.

Typographic form
The form of the apostrophe originates in writing, as a point with a downwards tail curving clockwise. This form was inherited by the typographic apostrophe ), also known as the apostrophe, or, informally, the curly apostrophe. Later typefaces had stylised apostrophes with a more geometric or simplified form, but usually retaining the same directional bias as a closing quotation mark.

With the invention of the , a "neutral" quotation mark form ( ' ) was created to economize on the keyboard, by using a single key to represent: the apostrophe, both opening and closing single , single , and on some typewriters the by overprinting with a period. This is known as the typewriter apostrophe or vertical apostrophe. The same convention was adopted for .

Both simplifications carried over to computer keyboards and the character set. However, although these are widely used due to their ubiquity and convenience, they are deprecated in contexts where proper typography is important. Apostrophe Atrophy. Apostrophe Atrophy. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.

There are several apostrophe characters defined in :

  • . Serves as both an apostrophe and closing single quotation mark. This is the preferred character to use for apostrophe according to the Unicode standard. The Unicode Consortium.
  • . This is preferred when the apostrophe is not considered punctuation that separates letters, but a letter in its own right. Examples occur in Breton , the , or in some such as the transliterated Arabic , hamza, or transliterated Cyrillic . As the letter apostrophe is seldom used in practice, the Unicode standard cautions that one should never assume text is coded thus. The letter apostrophe is rendered identically to the punctuation apostrophe in the Unicode code charts. Unicode code charts. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.
  • . The Hawaiian glottal stop, the okina, has its own Unicode character.
  • . One of two characters for glottal stop in .
  • .
  • , : The glottal stop (and other languages of Mexico), the , have their own Unicode characters.


ASCII encoding
The typewriter apostrophe ( ' ) was inherited by computer keyboards, and is the only apostrophe available in the (7-bit) , at code value 0x27 (39). As such, it is a highly overloaded character. In ASCII, it represents a right single , left single quotation mark, apostrophe, vertical line or (punctuation marks), or an (modifier letters).

Many earlier (pre-1985) computer displays and printers rendered the ASCII apostrophe as a typographic apostrophe, and rendered the ASCII ` ) U 0060 as a matching left single quotation mark. This allowed a more typographic appearance of text: ``I&nbsp;can't'&#39; would appear as ‘‘I&nbsp;can’t’’ on these systems. This can still be seen in many documents prepared at that time, and is still used in the typesetting system to create typographic quotes.

Typographic apostrophe in 8-bit encodings
Support for the typographic apostrophe (  ) was introduced in a variety of 8-bit character encodings, such as the operating system's character set (in 1984), and later in the encoding of . There is no such character in .

Microsoft Windows (sometimes incorrectly called ANSI or ISO-Latin) contains the typographic apostrophe at 0x92. Due to "smart quotes" in Microsoft software converting the ASCII apostrophe to this value, other software makers have been forced to adopt this as a de facto convention. For instance the HTML 5 standard specifies that this value is interpreted as CP1252. Some earlier non-Microsoft browsers would display a '?' for this and make web pages composed with Microsoft software somewhat hard to read.

Entering apostrophes
Although ubiquitous in typeset material, the typographic apostrophe (  ) is rather difficult to enter on a computer, since it does not have its own key on a standard keyboard. Outside the world of professional typesetting and graphic design, many people do not know how to enter this character and instead use the typewriter apostrophe ( ' ). The typewriter apostrophe has always been considered tolerable on Web pages because of the egalitarian nature of Web publishing, the low resolution of computer monitors in comparison to print, and legacy limitations provided by ASCII.

More recently, the correct use of the typographic apostrophe is becoming more common on the Web due to the wide adoption of the text encoding standard, higher-resolution displays, and advanced of text in modern operating systems. Because typewriter apostrophes are now often automatically converted to typographic apostrophes by and desktop publishing software (see below), the typographic apostrophe does often appear in documents produced by non-professionals.

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(and hence ) defines an &amp;apos; for the ASCII typewriter apostrophe. No equivalent entity is defined in the standard, despite all the other predefined character entities from XML being defined in HTML. If it cannot be entered literally in HTML, a could be used instead, such as "&#x27;" or "&#39;". &amp;apos; is officially supported in HTML since HTML 5.

Smart quotes
To make typographic apostrophes easier to enter, and publishing software often converts typewriter apostrophes to typographic apostrophes during text entry (at the same time converting opening and closing single and double quotes to their correct left-handed or right-handed forms). A similar facility may be offered on web servers after submitting text in a form field, e.g. on weblogs or free encyclopedias. This is known as the smart quotes feature; apostrophes and quotation marks that are not automatically altered by computer programs are known as dumb quotes.

Such conversion is not always done in accordance with the standards for character sets and encodings. Additionally, many such software programs incorrectly convert a leading apostrophe to an opening quotation mark (e.g., in abbreviations of years: 29 rather than the correct 29 for the years 1929 or 2029 (depending on context); or twas instead of twas as the archaic abbreviation of it was. Smart quote features also often fail to recognise situations when a rather than an apostrophe is needed; for example, incorrectly rendering the latitude 49° 53′ 08″ as 49° 53 08.

In it is possible to turn smart quotes off (in some versions, by navigating through Tools, AutoCorrect, AutoFormat as you type, and then unchecking the appropriate option). Alternatively, typing Control-Z (for Undo) immediately after entering the apostrophe will convert it back to a typewriter apostrophe. In Microsoft Word for Windows, holding down the Control key while typing two apostrophes will produce a single typographic apostrophe.

Some programming languages, like , use the ASCII apostrophe to delimit . In (and , which is nearly identical), , and , and many other languages either the apostrophe or the double quote may be used, allowing string constants to contain the other character (but not to contain both without using an ).

The C programming language (and many related languages like , or ) uses apostrophes to delimit a . In these languages a character constant is a different object than a 1-letter string.

In (and earlier Microsoft BASIC dialects such as QuickBASIC) an apostrophe is used to denote the start of a comment.As a comment character in MS BASIC, the apostrophe is in most cases an abbreviation of the REM statement, which can be appended to the end of almost any line with a colon (:). The cases where the apostrophe is not an abbreviation for REM would be those where the apostrophe is allowed but a REM statement is not. Note that there are also cases of the reverse constraint; for example, in QuickBASIC, a comment at the end of a DATA statement line cannot start with an apostrophe but must use ": REM".

See also



External links

    ^ (2020). 9780521530330, Cambridge University Press.
    ^ (2020). 9780819601919, Biblo & Tannen Publishers. .
    ^ (2020). 9789076542089, Kemper Conseil Publishing.
    ^ (2020). 9781868900343, Pharos Woordeboeke. .
    ^ (2020). 9781592400874, Gotham Books.

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