The apostrophe ( or ) is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritical mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet and some other alphabets. In English, it is used for three purposes: * The marking of the omission of one or more letters (as in the contraction of "do not" to "don't"). * The marking of possessive case of nouns (as in "the eagle's feathers", "in one month's time", "at your parents'‌ ome). * The marking of plurals of individual characters (e.g. "p's and q's") The word "apostrophe" comes ultimately from Greek (, 'he accent ofturning away or elision'), through Latin and French. The closing single quotation mark U+2019 () is preferred by Unicode when the character is to represent an apostrophe, though the typewriter apostrophe U+0027 () is often used. The opening single quotation mark , incorrect in this context, is also sometimes seen due to software that converts typewriter apostrophes into curly opening single quotes at the beginning of a line or when preceded by a space. See Smart quotes for examples.

Usage in English

Historical development

The apostrophe was first used by Pietro Bembo in his edition of ''De Aetna'' (1496). It was introduced into English in the 16th century in imitation of French practice.

French practice

Introduced by Geoffroy Tory (1529), the apostrophe was used in place of a vowel letter to indicate elision (as in in place of ). It was also frequently used in place of a final "e" (which was still pronounced at the time) when it was elided before a vowel, as in . Modern French orthography has restored the spelling .

Early English practice

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


The use of elision has continued to the present day, but significant changes have been made to the possessive and plural uses. By the 18th century, an apostrophe with the addition of an "s" was regularly used for all possessive singular forms, even when the letter "e" was not omitted (as in "the gate's height"). This was regarded as representing the Old English genitive singular inflection "-es". The plural use was greatly reduced, but a need was felt to mark possessive plural. The solution was to use an apostrophe after the plural "s" (as in "girls' dresses"). However, this was not universally accepted until the mid-19th century. Plurals not ending in -s keep the -'s marker, such as "children's toys, the men's toilet".

Possessive apostrophe

The apostrophe is used in English to indicate what is, for historical reasons, misleadingly called the possessive case in the English language. This case was called the genitive until the 18th century and (like the genitive case in other languages) in fact expresses much more than possession. For example, in the expressions "the school's headmaster", "the men's department", and "tomorrow's weather", the school does not own/possess the headmaster, men do not own/possess the department, and tomorrow does not/will not own the weather. In the words of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage: This dictionary also cites a study that found that only 40% of the possessive forms were used to indicate actual possession. The modern spelling 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 singular forms, the modern possessive or genitive inflection is a survival from certain genitive inflections in Old English, for which the apostrophe originally marked the loss of the old "e" (for example, became ). Until the 18th century, the apostrophe was extensively used to indicate plural forms. Its use for indicating plural "possessive" forms was not standard before the middle of the 19th century.

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 or 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" to form the possessive: 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 (spelled with "-s", "-se", for example), practice varies as to whether to add "'s" 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 below). * Acronyms and initialisms used as nouns (CD, DVD, NATO, RADAR, etc.) follow the same rules as singular nouns: e.g., "the TV's picture quality".

= 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" (there is more than one neighbour owning the garden) is standard 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 "dormouse", "titmouse"), "dice" (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 titmice'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".

= 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 Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports's 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''. Because these constructions stretch the resources of punctuation beyond comfort, in practice they are normally reworded: ''interventions by successive Ministers for Justice''.

= Joint or separate possession

= For two nouns (or noun phrases) joined by ''and'', there are several ways of expressing possession, including: :1. marking of the last noun (e.g. "Jack and Jill's children") :2. marking of both nouns (e.g. "Jack's and Jill's children"). Some grammars make no distinction in meaning between the two forms. Some publishers' style guides, however, make a distinction, assigning the "segregatory" (or "distributive") meaning to the form "John's and Mary's" and the "combinatorial" (or "joint") meaning to the form "John and Mary's". A third alternative is a construction of the form "Jack's children and Jill's", which is always distributive, i.e. it designates the combined set of Jack's children and Jill's children. When a coordinate possessive construction has two personal pronouns, the normal possessive inflection is used, and there is no apostrophe (e.g. "his and her children"). The issue of the use of the apostrophe arises when the coordinate construction includes a noun (phrase) and a pronoun. In this case, the inflection of only the last item may sometimes be, at least marginally, acceptable ("you and your spouse's bank account"). The inflection of both is normally preferred (e.g. Jack's and your dogs), but there is a tendency to avoid this construction, too, in favour of a construction that does not use a coordinate possessive (e.g. by using "Jack's letters and yours"). Where a construction like "Jack's and your dogs" is used, the interpretation is usually "segregatory" (i.e. not joint possession).

= 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: "Westward Ho!'s railway station"; "''Awaye!'''s Paulette Whitten recorded Bob Wilson's story"; ''Washington, D.C.'s museums'' (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 master of foxhounds' 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 ''McDonald's'' and ''Standard & Poor's'' already include possessive apostrophes. For similar cases involving geographical names, see below. * Similarly, the possessives of all phrases whose wording is fixed are formed in the same way: **"Us and Thems inclusion on the album ''The Dark Side of the Moon'' **You Am I's latest CD **The 69'ers' drummer, Tom Callaghan (only the second apostrophe is possessive) ** ''His 'n' Hers'''s first track is called "Joyriders". ** Was ''She'' success greater, or ''King Solomon's Mines''? :For complications with foreign phrases and titles, see below.

= Time, money, and similar

= An apostrophe is used in time and money references in constructions such as ''one hour's respite'', ''two weeks' holiday'', ''a dollar's worth'', ''five pounds' worth'', ''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''. All other possessive pronouns do end with an apostrophe and an ''s''. In singular forms, the apostrophe comes first, e.g. ''one's''; ''everyone's''; ''somebody's'', ''nobody else's'', etc., while the apostrophe follows the ''s'' in plural forms as with nouns: ''the others' complaints''. The possessive of ''it'' was originally ''it's'', and it is a common mistake today to write it this way, though the apostrophe was dropped by the early 1800s and authorities are now unanimous that ''it's'' can be only a contraction of ''it is'' or ''it has''.

= Importance for disambiguation

= Each of these four phrases (listed in Steven Pinker's ''The Language Instinct'') 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)'' Kingsley Amis, 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.'')

Singular nouns ending with an "s" or "z" sound

Some singular nouns are pronounced with a sibilant 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 Oxford University Press, the Modern Language Association, the BBC and ''The Economist''. Such authorities demand possessive singulars like these: ''Bridget Jones's Diary''; ''Tony Adams's friend; my boss's job; the US's economy''. 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 ''The Guardian'', ''Yahoo! Style Guide'', and ''The American Heritage Book of English Usage''. Such sources permit possessive singulars like these: ''Socrates' later suggestion''; or ''Achilles' heel'' if that is how the pronunciation is intended. The Economist style guide omits the apostrophe entirely in this case. *Some style guides advise that Classical, biblical, and similar names ending in a sibilant, especially if they are polysyllabic, should not take an added ''s'' in the possessive; among sources giving exceptions of this kind are ''The Times'' and ''The Elements of Style'', which make general stipulations, and Vanderbilt University, which mentions only ''Moses'' and ''Jesus''. As a particular case, ''Jesus''' – referred to as "an accepted liturgical archaism" in ''Hart's Rules'' – is commonly written instead of ''Jesus's''. * There are also some entrenched uses, for example ''St James's Park'' (in London) (but the Newcastle stadium displays its name spelled ''St James' Park''), ''St James's Palace'' (and ''the Court of St James's''), ''St. James's Hospital'' (in Dublin), ''King James's School'', Knaresborough and ''King James's School'', Almondbury (but there is no genitive at all in ''St James Park'' (Exeter) or ''St. James Park'' (Bronx), nor is there one in ''the King James Bible''). Although less common, some contemporary writers still follow the older practice of omitting the second ''s'' in all cases ending with a sibilant, but usually not when written ''-x'' or ''-xe''. Some contemporary authorities such as the Associated Press Stylebook recommend or allow the practice of omitting the additional "s" in all words ending with an "s", but not in words ending with other sibilants ("z" and "x"). The 15th edition of ''The Chicago Manual of Style'' had 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, but the 16th edition no longer recommends omitting the possessive "s". 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, ''St James' Park'' in Newcastle he football groundand the area of ''St. James's Park'' in London). However, debate has been going on regarding the punctuation of St James' Park (Newcastle) for some time, unlike St James's Park (London) which is the less contentious version. For more details on practice with geographic names, see the relevant section below. 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''. Still others prefer to omit the apostrophe when there is an ''s'' sound before ''sake'': ''for morality's sake'', but ''for convenience sake''. The Supreme Court of the United States 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 ) favoured the additional ''s'', but a strong minority disagrees.

Nouns ending with silent ''s'', ''x'', or ''z''

The English possessive of French nouns ending in a silent ''s'', ''x'', or ''z'' is addressed by various style guides. Certainly a sibilant is pronounced in examples like ''Descartes's'' and ''Dumas's''; the question addressed here is whether ''s'' needs to be added. Similar examples with ''x'' or ''z'': s main ingredient is truffle''; ''His 's loss went unnoticed''; ''"Verreaux('s) eagle, a large, predominantly black eagle, ''Aquila verreauxi'',..."'' (OED, entry for "Verreaux", with silent ''x''; see Verreaux's eagle); 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''. For possessive ''plurals'' of words ending in a 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''. The possessive of a cited French title with a silent plural ending is uncertain: "'s long and complicated publication history", but "' singular effect was 'exotic primitive' ..." (with nearby sibilants ''-ce-'' in ''noces'' and ''s-'' in ''singular''). Compare treatment of other titles, above. 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 United States Board on Geographic Names, 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 US are officially spelled with a genitive apostrophe: Martha's Vineyard; Ike's Point, New Jersey; John E's Pond, Rhode Island; Carlos Elmer's Joshua View, Arizona; and Clark's Mountain, Oregon.US Board on Geographic Names: FAQs
Geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved on 7 April 2013.
Some municipalities, originally incorporated using the apostrophe, have dropped it in accordance with this policy; Taylors Falls in Minnesota, for example, was originally incorporated as "Taylor's Falls". On the state level, the federal policy is not always followed: Vermont's official state website has a page on Camel's Hump State Forest. Australia's Intergovernmental Committee on Surveying and Mapping also has a no-apostrophe policy, a practice it says goes back to the 1900s and which is generally followed around the country. On the other hand, the United Kingdom has Bishop's Stortford, Bishop's Castle and King's Lynn (among many others) but St Albans, St Andrews and St Helens. London Underground's Piccadilly line has the adjacent stations of Earl's Court in Earls Court and Barons Court. These names were mainly fixed in form many years before grammatical rules were fully standardised. While Newcastle United play football at a stadium called St James' Park, and Exeter City at St James Park, London has a St James's Park (this whole area of London is named after the parish of St James's Church, Piccadilly). 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 past standards. Practice in the United Kingdom and Canada is not so uniform.

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: ''Country Women's Association'', but ''International Aviation Association''; ''Magistrates' Court of Victoria'', but ''Federated Ship Painters and Dockers Union''. 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. 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 ''Sainsbury's'' with ''Harrods''). 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. 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 has campaigned for large retailers such as Harrods, Currys, and Selfridges to reinstate their missing punctuation. A spokesperson for Barclays PLC 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 Paulos Circus, and other companies that leave the apostrophe out of their logos but include it in written text, such as Cadwalader's.

Apostrophe showing omission

An apostrophe is commonly used to indicate omitted characters, normally letters: * It is used in contractions, such as ''can't'' from ''cannot'', ''it's'' from ''it is'' or ''it has'', and ''I'll'' from ''I will'' or ''I shall''. * It is used in abbreviations, 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 compound word. 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 a non-standard 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. A word which formerly contained two apostrophes is ''sha'n't ''for ''shall not'', examples of which may be found in the older works of P G Wodehouse and "Frank Richards" (Charles Hamilton), but this has been superseded by ''shan't''. **Shortenings with more apostrophes, such as ''y'all'dn't've'' (y'all wouldn't have), are possible, particularly in Southern US dialects. *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 OED, entry for "pince-nez"; ''pince-nezed'' is also in citations). *An apostrophe's function as possessive or contractive can depend on the grammatical context: **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.") *Eye dialects use apostrophes in creating the effect of a non-standard pronunciation. *Apostrophes to omit letters in place names are common on British road signs when space does not allow for the full name for example, Wolverhampton abbreviated as "W'hampton" and Kidderminster as "K'minster". *The United States Board on Geographic Names, while discouraging possessive apostrophes in place names, allows apostrophes indicating omission, as in "Lake O' the Woods," or when normally present in a surname, as in "O'Malley Draw".

Use in forming some plurals

The apostrophe may be used for clarity with the plurals of single letters as in :"minding your p's and q's" :"A's and S's" Use of the apostrophe may be recommended only for lowercase letters. On the other hand, some style manuals and critics suggest that apostrophes should never be used for plurals, even for lower case letters. APA style requires that one write: ''p''s, ''n''s, etc. An apostrophe is used by some writers to form a plural for abbreviations, initials including acronyms, and symbols, especially where adding just ''s'' rather than s'' may leave meaning ambiguous or presentation inelegant. Some specific cases: *For groups of years, most style guides prefer ''1960s'' to ''1960's'' and ''90s'' or '''90s'' to ''90's'' or '''90's''. *Several guides discourage using an apostrophe in forming the plural of numbers, for example ''1000s of years'' rather than ''1000's of years''. An alternative is to write out the numbers as words.Guide to Punctuation
Larry Trask, University of Sussex: "American usage, however, does put an apostrophe here: (A) This research was carried out in 1970's."
*The apostrophe is often used in plurals of symbols, for example "that page has too many &'s and #'s on it". Some style guides state that the apostrophe is unnecessary since there is no ambiguity but that some editors and teachers prefer this usage. The addition of an ''s'' without an apostrophe may make the text difficult to read. For abbreviations, acronyms, etc., use of ''s'' without an apostrophe is now more common than its use with an apostrophe, but for single lowercase letters, pluralization with '''s'' is usual.

Use in non-English names

Names that are not strictly native to English sometimes have an apostrophe substituted to represent other characters (see also As a mark of elision, below). *Anglicised versions of Irish surnames typically contain an apostrophe after an ''O'' (in place of Ó), for example ''O'Doole''. *Some Scottish and Irish 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 ''Mac'' would normally appear. However, it may also arise from confusion of (''turned comma'' or "6-quote"), which was used as a substitute for superscript ''c'' when printing with hand-set metal type. Compare: M'Lean, McLean, M‘Lean.

Use in transliteration

In transliterated foreign words, an apostrophe may be used to separate letters or syllables that otherwise would likely be interpreted incorrectly. For example: *in the Arabic word , a transliteration of , the syllables are as in ''mus·haf'', not ''mu·shaf'' *in the Japanese name ''Shin'ichi'', the apostrophe shows that the pronunciation is ''shi·n·i·chi'' (hiragana ), where the letters ''n'' () and ''i'' () are separate morae, rather than ''shi·ni·chi'' (). *in the Chinese Pinyin romanization, the apostrophe (, , géyīn fúhào, 'syllable-dividing mark') is used before a syllable starting with a vowel (''a'', ''o'', or ''e'') in a multiple-syllable word when the syllable does not start the word (which is most commonly realized as ), unless the syllable immediately follows a hyphen or other dash. This is done to remove ambiguity that could arise, as in ''Xi'an'', which consists of the two syllables ' ("") ' (""), compared to such words as ' (""). (This ambiguity does not occur when tone marks are used: The two tone marks in ' unambiguously show that the word consists of two syllables. However, even with tone marks, the city is usually spelled with an apostrophe as '.) Furthermore, an apostrophe may be used to indicate a glottal stop in transliterations. For example: *in the Arabic word , a common transliteration of (part of) ''al-qur'ān'', the apostrophe corresponds to the diacritic Maddah over the , one of the letters in the Arabic alphabet Rather than (modifier letter left half ring), the apostrophe is sometimes used to indicate a voiced pharyngeal fricative as it sounds and looks like the glottal stop to most English speakers. For example: *in the Arabic word for , the apostrophe corresponds to the Arabic letter . Finally, in "scientific" transliteration of Cyrillic script, the apostrophe usually represents the soft sign , though in "ordinary" transliteration it is usually omitted. For example, * "The Ob River (Russian: Обь), also Ob', is a major river in western Siberia,...".

Non-standard English use

Failure to observe standard use of the apostrophe is widespread and frequently criticised as incorrect, often generating heated debate. The British founder of the Apostrophe Protection Society earned a 2001 Ig Nobel prize for "efforts to protect, promote and defend the differences between plural and possessive". A 2004 report by British examination board OCR stated that "the inaccurate use of the apostrophe is so widespread as to be almost universal". 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 noun plurals are known as ''greengrocers' apostrophes'' or ''grocers' apostrophes'', often written as ''greengrocer's apostrophes'' or ''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 Denglisch). The practice, once common and acceptable (see Historical development), comes from the identical sound of the plural and possessive forms of most English nouns. It is often criticised as a form of hypercorrection coming from a widespread ignorance of the proper use of the apostrophe or of punctuation in general. Lynne Truss, author of ''Eats, Shoots & Leaves'', 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. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's letter to EU President Donald Tusk of 19 October 2019 regarding a Brexit extension contained a well-publicised and ridiculed grocer's apostrophe. He wrote ''"in this continent hatour people's (sic) share"''. The term is believed to have been coined in the middle of the 20th century by a teacher of languages working in Liverpool, at a time when such mistakes were common in the handwritten signs and advertisements of greengrocers (e. g., ''Apple's 1/- a pound, Orange's 1/6d 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 standard and adopting the habit themselves. The same use of apostrophe before noun plural -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, (English ''babies'') and (English ''radios''). This often produces so-called "Dunglish" errors when carried over into English. Hyperforeignism has been formalised in some pseudo-anglicisms. For example, the French word (from English ''pin'') is used (with the apostrophe in both singular and plural) for collectible lapel pins. Similarly, there is an Andorran football club called (after such British clubs as Rangers F.C.) and a Japanese dance group called Super Monkey's.


In the UK there is a tendency to drop apostrophes in many commonly used names such as St Annes, St Johns Lane, and so on. UK supermarket chain Tesco omits the mark where standard practice would require it. Signs in Tesco advertise (among other items) . In his book ''Troublesome Words'', author Bill Bryson lambastes Tesco for this, stating that "the mistake is inexcusable, and those who make it are linguistic Neanderthals." The United States Board on Geographic Names discourages the use of possessive apostrophes in geographic names (see above), though state agencies do not always conform; Vermont's official state website provides information concerning Camel's Hump State Forest. The Geographical Names Board of New South Wales, Australia, excludes possessive apostrophes from place names, along with other punctuation.

Particular cases

George Bernard Shaw, a proponent of English spelling reform 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''. Hubert Selby Jr. used a slash instead of an apostrophe mark for contractions and did not use an apostrophe at all for possessives. Lewis Carroll 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''. These authors' usages have not become widespread.

Apostrophes in band names

The British pop group Hear'Say 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". The apostrophe in the name of rock band The La's is often thought to be misused, but in fact it marks omission of the letter ''d''. The name comes from the Scouse slang for ''lads''.


Over the years, the use of apostrophes has been criticised. George Bernard Shaw called them "uncouth bacilli", referring to the apostrophe-like shape of many bacteria. The author and language commentator Anu Garg, in a humorous but well-argued discussion, has called for the abolition of the apostrophe, stating "Some day this world would be free of metastatic cancers, narcissistic con men, and the apostrophe." 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 ''English Journal'' 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 ... ndrarely clarify meaning". John C. Wells, emeritus professor of phonetics at University College London, says the apostrophe is "a waste of time". The Apostrophe Protection Society, founded by retired journalist John Richards in 2001, was brought to a full stop in 2019, Richards (then aged 96) accepting that "the ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!".

Non-English use

As a mark of elision

In many languages, especially European languages, the apostrophe is used to indicate the elision of one or more sounds, as in English. *In Albanian 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, : them (from : them), (from ). It is used too in some of the forms of possessive pronouns, for example: (from ). *In Afrikaans, as in Dutch, the apostrophe is used to show that letters have been omitted from words. The most common use is in the indefinite article , which is a contraction of ''een'' meaning 'one' (the number). As the initial ''e'' is omitted and cannot be capitalised, the second word in a sentence that begins with is capitalised instead. For example: , 'A tree is green'. In addition, the apostrophe is used for plurals and diminutives where the root ends with long vowels, e.g. , , , , etc. * In Catalan, French, Italian, Ligurian, and Occitan word sequences such as , (often shortened to ''maître d'', when used in English), and the final vowel in the first word (''de'' 'of', ''le'' 'the', etc.) is elided because the word that follows it starts with a vowel or a mute h. Similarly, French has instead of ('that he'), instead of ('it is or it's'), and so on. Catalan, French, Italian, and Occitan surnames sometimes contain apostrophes of elision, e.g. , *In Danish, apostrophes are sometimes seen on commercial materials. One might commonly see ('Take me with ou) next to a stand with advertisement leaflets; that would be written in standard orthography. As in German, the apostrophe must not be used to indicate the possessive, except when there is already an ''s'', ''x'' or ''z'' present in the base form, as in ('the Book of Esajas'). *In Dutch, as in Afrikaans, the apostrophe is used to indicate omitted characters. For example, the indefinite article can be shortened to , and the definite article shortened to . 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 as ''genitivus temporalis'' in , , , (for , 'at morning, at afternoon, at evening, at night') and in some frozen place names such as '''s-Hertogenbosch'' (possessive, lit. "The Duke's forest"), ''‌'s-Gravenhage'' (traditional name of The Hague, lit. "The Count's hedge"), ''‌'s-Gravenbrakel'' (Braine-le-Comte, in Belgium), ''‌'s-Hertogenrade'' (Herzogenrath, in Germany), etc. In addition, the apostrophe is used for plurals where the singulars end with long vowels, e.g. , ; and for the genitive of proper names ending with these vowels, e.g. , . These are in fact elided vowels; use of the apostrophe prevents spellings like and . However, most diminutives do not use an apostrophe where the plural forms would; producing spellings such as and . *In Esperanto, the limits the elision mark to the definite article (from ) and singular nominative nouns ( from , 'heart'). This is mostly confined to poetry and songs. Idiomatic phrases such as (from , 'thanks to') and (from 'of the') are nonetheless frequent. In-word elision is usually marked with a hyphen, as in (from , 'Dr'). Some early guides used and advocated the use of apostrophes between word parts, to aid recognition of such compound words as , 'guitarist'; but in the latter case, modern usage is to use either a hyphen or a middle dot when disambiguation is necessary, as in ''ĉas-hundo'' or ''ĉas·hundo'', "a hunting dog", not to be mispronounced as ''ĉa.ŝun.do''. * French feminine singular possessive adjectives do not undergo elision, but change to the masculine form instead: ' preceding ' becomes ' ('my church'). ** Quebec's Bill 101, which dictates the use of French in the province, prohibits the use of apostrophes in proper names in which it would not be used in proper French (thus the international donut chain Tim Hortons, originally spelled with the possessive apostrophe as Tim Horton's, was required to drop the apostrophe in Quebec to comply with Bill 101). * Galician language standard admits the use of apostrophe () 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: (the hero of the Odyssey). They are also used to reproduce oral ellisions and, as stated below, to join (or split) commercial names of popular public establishments, namely bars and in masculine (, The pot). * In Ganda, when a word ending with a vowel is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, the final vowel of the first word is elided and the initial vowel of the second word lengthened in compensation. When the first word is a monosyllable, this elision is represented in the orthography with an apostrophe: in ' 'the father of the children', ' ('of') becomes ''w''; in ' ('who is it?'), ' ('who') becomes ''y''. But the final vowel of a polysyllable is always written, even if it is elided in speech: ' ('this man'), not *', because ' ('man') is a polysyllable. * In German 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 exceptions are the possessive cases of names ending in an "s"-sound as in ', or "to prevent ambiguities" in all other possessive cases of names, as in ' (referring to the female name ', not the male name '). The English/Saxon style of using an apostrophe for possession was introduced after the spelling reform, but is strongly disagreed on by native speakers, and discouraged. Although possessive usage (beyond the exceptions) is widespread, it is often deemed incorrect. The German equivalent of "greengrocers' apostrophes" would be the derogatory ' ('idiot's apostrophe'; ). * In modern printings of Ancient Greek, apostrophes are also used to mark elision. Some 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 (') for (') and (') for ('). Such modern usage should be carefully distinguished from polytonic Greek's native rough and smooth breathing marks, which usually appear as a form of rounded apostrophe. * In Hebrew, the ''geresh'' (׳), often typed as an apostrophe, is used to denote initialisms. A double ''geresh'' (״), known by the dual form gershayim, is used to denote acronyms; it is inserted before (i.e., to the right of) the last letter of the acronym. Examples: (abbreviation for , 'professor', 'professor'); (', 'P.S.'). 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: (' – short for , ', 'I am/do not'). *In Irish, the past tense of verbs beginning with a vowel, or with ''fh'' followed by a vowel, begins with ''d' ''(elision of ''do''), for example becomes ('opened') and becomes ('returned'). The copula is often elided to '''s'', and ('to'), ('my') etc. are elided before ''f'' and vowels. *In Italian it is used for elision with pronouns, as in instead of ; with articles, as in instead of ; and for truncation, as in instead of . Stylistically, sentences beginning É (as in ) are often rendered as E' in newspapers, to minimise leading (inter-line spacing). *In modern Norwegian, the apostrophe marks that a word has been contracted, such as ' from ' ('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 ' ('man') and ' ('man's'), without apostrophe, but ' ('naval pilot') and '' ('naval pilot's'). Indicating the possessive for the two former American presidents named George Bush, whose names end in , could be written as both ' (simply adding an -s to the name) and ' (adding an apostrophe to the end of the name). * In Portuguese the apostrophe is also used in a few combinations, such as ('water tower'), ('guineafowl'), (a plant species, ), etc. Portuguese has many contractions between prepositions and articles or pronouns (like ''na'' for ''em'' + ''a''), but these are written without an apostrophe. * 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. Instead Spanish writes out the spoken elision in full (', ') except for the contraction ' for ' + ', 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: ', ', and ' but ' and '. This reflects the origin of the Spanish definite articles from the Latin demonstratives '. *In Swedish, the apostrophe marks an elision, such as ', short for ' ('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. ' for ' 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 '. *Welsh uses the apostrophe to mark elision of the definite article ('the') following a vowel (''a'', ''e'', ''i'', ''o'', ''u'', ''y'', or, in Welsh, ''w''), as in , 'to the house'. It is also used with the particle , such as with , 'she is'.

As a glottal stop

Several languages and transliteration systems use the apostrophe or some similar mark to indicate a glottal stop, sometimes considering it a letter of the alphabet: *In several Finno-Ugric languages, such as Estonian and Finnish; for example in the Finnish word ', being the genitive or accusative of ' ('raw'). *In Guarani, it is called ' , and used in the words ' (language, to speak), ' (grass), ' (sterile). *In Hawaiian, the ''okina'' , an inverted apostrophe, is often rendered as . It is considered a letter of the alphabet. *Mayan. *In the Tongan language, the apostrophe is called a ' and is the last letter of the alphabet. It represents the glottal stop. Like the okina, it is inverted. *Various other Austronesian languages, such as Samoan, Tahitian, and Chamorro. *Tetum, one of the official languages of East Timor. *The Brazilian native Tupi language. *Mossi (Mooré), a language of Burkina Faso. *In Võro, the apostrophe is used in parallel with the letter ''q'' as symbol of plural. *Several fictional languages such as Klingon, D'ni, Mando'a or Na'vi. The apostrophe represents sounds resembling the glottal stop in the Turkic languages and in some romanizations of Semitic languages, including Arabic and Hebrew. In typography, this function may be performed by the closing single quotation mark. In that case, the letter '''ayn'' (Arabic ع and Hebrew ע) is correspondingly transliterated with the opening single quotation mark.

As a mark of palatalization or non-palatalization

Some languages and transliteration systems use the apostrophe to mark the presence, or the lack of, palatalization: *In Belarusian and Ukrainian, the apostrophe is used between a consonant and a following "soft" (iotified) vowel (Be.: 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 a word. It therefore marks a morpheme boundary before /j/ and, in Ukrainian, is a letter of the alphabet (as the hard sign in Russian is) rather than a simple punctuation mark in English, as it is not a punctuation mark in Ukrainian. It appears frequently in Ukrainian, as, for instance, in the words: <> [] 'five', <> [] 'departure', <> [] 'united', <> [] 'to clear up, explain', <> [] play (drama), etc. *In Russian and some derived alphabets, the same function has been served by the [[hard sign]] (ъ, formerly called ''yer''). But the apostrophe saw some use as a substitute after 1918, when Soviet authorities enforced an orthographic reform by confiscating movable type bearing the hard sign from stubborn printing houses in Petrograd. *In some Latin transliterations of certain Cyrillic alphabets (for Belarusian, Russian, and Ukrainian), the apostrophe is used to replace the soft sign (ь, indicating palatalization of the preceding consonant), e.g., ''Русь'' is transliterated ''Rus''' according to the BGN/PCGN system. (The prime symbol is also used for the same purpose.) Some of these transliteration schemes use a double apostrophe ( ˮ ) to represent the apostrophe in Ukrainian and Belarusian text and the hard sign (ъ) in Russian text, e.g. Ukrainian ' ('Slavic') is transliterated as '. *Some Karelian orthographies use an apostrophe to indicate palatalization, e.g. ' ('to give advice'), ' ('just (like)'), ' ('to revive').

To separate morphemes

Some languages use the apostrophe to separate the root of a word and its affixes, especially if the root is foreign and unassimilated. (For another kind of morphemic separation see pinyin, below.) * In Danish an apostrophe is sometimes used to join the enclitic definite article to words of foreign origin, or to other words that would otherwise look awkward. For example, one would write ' to mean "the IP address". There is some variation in what is considered "awkward enough" to warrant an apostrophe; for instance, long-established words such as ' ('company') or ' ('level') might be written ' and ', 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. (the CD). *In Estonian, apostrophes can be used in the declension of some foreign names to separate the stem from any declension endings; e.g., ' (genitive case) or ' (illative case) of ''Monet'' (name of the famous painter). *In Finnish, 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. ' ('in a show'), ' ('to Bordeaux'). For Finnish as well as Swedish, there is a closely related use of the colon. *In Polish, the apostrophe is used exclusively for marking inflections of words and word-like elements (but not acronyms – 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 ' for "Al Gore's campaign". In this example, ' is spelled without an apostrophe, since its spelling and pronunciation fit into normal Polish rules; but ' 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 ', for example. The effect is akin to the greengrocers' apostrophe (see above). *In Turkish, proper nouns are capitalised and an apostrophe is inserted between the noun and any following inflectional suffix, e.g. ' ("in Istanbul"), contrasting with ' ("in school", ' is a common noun) and ' ('Istanbulite', ''-lu'' is a derivational suffix). *In Welsh the apostrophe is used with infixed pronouns in order to distinguish them from the preceding word (e.g. ', 'and my sister' as opposed to ', 'about a sister').

Miscellaneous uses in other languages

*In Breton, the combination ' is used for the consonant (like ''ch'' in English ''Loch Ness''), while ' is used for the consonant (as in French ' or English ''she''). *In Czech, an apostrophe is used for writing to indicate spoken or informal language where the writer wants to express the natural way of informal speech, but it should not be used in formal text or text of a serious nature. E.g., instead of ' ('he read'), the word form ' is used. ' is the informal variant of the verb form ', at least in some varieties. These two words are the same in meaning, but to use the informal form gives the text a more natural tone, as though a friend were talking to you. Furthermore, the same as in the Slovak case above holds for lowercase ''t'' and ''d'', and for the two-digit year notation. *In Finnish, one of the consonant gradation patterns is the change of a ''k'' into a hiatus, e.g. ' → ' ('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. ' → ', ' → '. (This is in contrast to compound words, where the equivalent problem is solved with a hyphen, e.g. ', 'land area'.) Similarly, the apostrophe is used to mark the hiatus (contraction) that occurs in poetry, e.g. ' for ' ('where is'). *Galician restaurants sometimes use ' in their names instead of the standard article ' ('the'). *In Ganda, ' (pronounced ) is used in place of ''ŋ'' on keyboards where this character is not available. The apostrophe distinguishes it from the letter combination ' (pronounced ), which has separate use in the language. Compare this with the Swahili usage below. *In Hebrew, the ''geresh'' (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 Hebrew alphabet: 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 ''geresh'' (informally ''chupchik''). For example, the name ''George'' is spelled in Hebrew (with representing the first and last consonants). **To denote a Hebrew numeral (e.g., , which stands for '50') **To denote a Hebrew letter which stands for itself (e.g., – the letter ''mem'') **Gershayim (a double geresh) to denote a Hebrew letter name (e.g., – the letter ''lamed'') **Another (rarer) use of geresh is to denote the last syllable (which in some cases, but not all, is a suffix) in some words of Yiddish origin (e.g., ). **In the Middle Ages and the Early modern period, gershayim were also used to denote foreign words, as well as a means of emphasis. * In Italian, an apostrophe is sometimes used as a substitute for a grave or an acute accent. This may be done after an initial E or an accented final vowel (when writing in all-capitals), or when the proper form of the letter is unavailable for technical reasons. So a sentence beginning ('It is true that...') may be written as . This form is often seen in newspapers, as it is the only case of an accent above the cap height and its omission permits the text to be more closely spaced (leading). Less commonly, a forename like 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. * In Jèrriais, one of the uses of the apostrophe is to mark gemination, or consonant length: For example, ' represents , ' , ' , ' , and ' (contrasted with , , , , and ). * In Lithuanian, the apostrophe is occasionally used to add a Lithuanized ending on an international word, e.g.- "parking'as", "Skype'as", "Facebook'as". * In standard Lojban orthography, the apostrophe is a letter in its own right (called ) that can appear only between two vowels, and is phonemically realised as either or, more rarely, *In Macedonian the apostrophe is sometimes used to represent the sound schwa, which can be found on dialectal levels, but not in the Standard Macedonian. *In Slovak, the caron over lowercase ''t'', ''d'', ''l'', and uppercase ''L'' consonants resembles an apostrophe, for example, ''ď'', ''ť'', ''ľ'', and ''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 elision in certain words (', as an abbreviated form of ' ('you are'), or ' for ' ('up')); however, these elisions are restricted to poetry (with a few exceptions). Moreover, the apostrophe is also used before a two-digit year number (to indicate the omission of the first two digits): ' (usually used for 1987). * In Swahili, an apostrophe after ' shows that there is no sound of after the sound; that is, that the ' is pronounced as in English ''singer'', not as in English ''finger''. * In Switzerland, the apostrophe is used as thousands separator alongside the fixed space (e.g., 2'000'000 or for two million) in all four national languages. * In the new Uzbek Latin alphabet adopted in 2000, the apostrophe serves as a diacritical mark to distinguish different phonemes written with the same letter: it differentiates ' (corresponding to Cyrillic ''ў'') from ', and ' (Cyrillic ''ғ'') from '. This avoids the use of special characters, allowing Uzbek to be typed with ease in ordinary ASCII on any Latin keyboard. In addition, a postvocalic apostrophe in Uzbek represents the glottal stop phoneme derived from Arabic ''hamzah'' or '''ayn'', replacing Cyrillic ''ъ''. *In English Yorkshire dialect, 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 glottal stop. *In the pinyin (hànyǔ pīnyīn) system of romanization for Standard Chinese, 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 ''Xī'ān'' includes an apostrophe to distinguish it from a single-syllable word '. More strictly, however, it is standard 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: ''Tiān'ānmén'', ''Yǎ'ān''; but simply ''Jǐnán'', in which the syllables are ''ji'' and ''nan'', since the absence of an apostrophe shows that the syllables are not ''jin'' and ''an'' (contrast ''Jīn'ān''). This is a kind of morpheme-separation marking (see above). *In the largely superseded Wade–Giles romanization for Standard Chinese, an apostrophe marks aspiration 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. Some academic users of the system write this character as a spiritus asper () or single left (opening) quotation mark (‘). *In some systems of romanization for the Japanese, the apostrophe is used between moras in ambiguous situations, to differentiate between, for example, ' and ' + '. (This is similar to the practice in Pinyin mentioned above.) *In science fiction and fantasy, the apostrophe is often used in fictional names, sometimes to indicate a glottal stop (for example Mitth'raw'nuruodo in ''Star Wars''), but also sometimes simply for decoration.

Typographic form

The shape of the apostrophe originated in manuscript writing, as a point with a downwards tail curving clockwise. This form was inherited by the ''typographic apostrophe'', , also known as the ''typeset apostrophe'' (or, informally, the ''curly apostrophe''). Later sans-serif 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 typewriter, a "neutral" or "straight" shape quotation mark, , was created to represent a number of different glyphs with a single keystroke: the apostrophe, both the opening and the closing single quotation marks, the single primes, and on some typewriters even the exclamation point (by backspacing and overprinting with a period). This is known as the ''typewriter apostrophe'' or ''vertical apostrophe''. The same convention was adopted for double quotation marks (). Both simplifications carried over to computer keyboards and the ASCII character set.

Informal use in records of measurement

Formally, the symbol used to represent a foot of length, depth, or height, is (prime) and that for the inch is (double prime). (For example, in the USA and UK, the notation signifies 5 feet and 7 inches). Similarly, the prime symbol is the formal representation of a minute of arc (1/60 of a degree in geometry and geomatics), and double prime represents a second of arc (for example, 17°54'32" represents 17 degrees 54 minutes and 32 seconds). Because of the very close similarity of the typewriter apostrophe and typewriter double quote to prime and double prime, substitution in informal contexts is ubiquitous but they are deprecated in contexts where proper typography is important.


Unicode defines three apostrophe characters: * :Typewriter or ASCII apostrophe. * :Typographic ('curly') apostrophe. 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 closing single quote and the apostrophe were unified in Unicode 2.1 "to correct problems in the mapping tables from Windows and Macintosh code pages." * :Modifier letters in Unicode generally are considered part of a word, this is preferred when the apostrophe is considered as a letter in its own right, rather than punctuation that separates letters. Thus this letter apostrophe may be used, for example, in the transliteration of the Arabic glottal stop (''hamza'') or the Cyrillic "soft sign", or in some orthographies such as ' of Breton, where this combination is an independent trigraph. ICANN considers this the proper character for Ukrainian apostrophe within IDNs. Some argue that this character should be used for the apostrophe in English. This character is rendered identically to U+2019 in the Unicode code charts, and the standard cautions that one should never assume this code is used in any language. Characters similar to apostrophe: * * * * Hawaiian ''okina'' and for the transliteration of Arabic and Hebrew ''ʻayn''. * * Arabic ''hamza'' and Hebrew ''alef''. * Arabic and Hebrew ''ʿayin''. * Stress accent or dynamic accent. * * One of two characters for glottal stop in Nenets. * * Also known as combining Greek ''psili''. * Also known as combining Greek ''dasia''. * * * Identical to U+0313. * Also known as Greek '. * * * * * (or turned comma, which can mark a letter's omission) * * * * ''Saltillo'' of the languages of Mexico. * * Fullwidth form of the typewriter apostrophe.


ASCII encoding

The typewriter apostrophe, , was inherited by computer keyboards, and is the only apostrophe character available in the (7-bit) ASCII character encoding, at code value 0x27 (39). In ASCII, it may be used to represent any of left single quotation mark, right single quotation mark, apostrophe, vertical line or prime (punctuation marks), or an acute accent (modifier letters). Many earlier (pre-1985) computer displays and printers rendered the ASCII apostrophe as a typographic apostrophe, and rendered the grave accent ('back tick',0x60, 96) as a matching left single quotation mark. This allowed a more typographic appearance of text: ``I can't'' would appear as on these systems. This can still be seen in many documents prepared at that time, and is still used in the TeX typesetting system to create typographic quotes.

Typographic apostrophe in 8-bit encodings

Support for the typographic apostrophe (  ) was introduced in several 8-bit character encodings, such as the Apple Macintosh operating system's Mac Roman character set (in 1984), and later in the CP1252 encoding of Microsoft Windows. Both sets also used this code point for a closing single quote. There is no such character in ISO 8859-1. The Microsoft Windows code page CP1252 (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 effectively forced to adopt this as a ''de facto'' convention. For instance, the HTML5 standard specifies that this value is interpreted as this character from 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 standard use of the typographic apostrophe is becoming more common on the Web due to the wide adoption of the Unicode text encoding standard, higher-resolution displays, and advanced anti-aliasing of text in modern operating systems. Because typewriter apostrophes are now often automatically converted to typographic apostrophes by word processing and desktop publishing software, the typographic apostrophe does often appear in documents produced by non-professionals, albeit sometimes incorrectly—see the section "Smart Quotes" below. XML (and hence XHTML) defines an &apos; character entity reference for the ASCII typewriter apostrophe. &apos; is officially supported in HTML since HTML 5. It is ''not'' defined in HTML 4 despite all the other predefined character entities from XML being defined. If it cannot be entered literally in HTML, a numeric character reference could be used instead, such as &#x27; or &#39;. In the HTML entity &rsquo; the ''rsquo'' is short for right single quotation mark.

Smart quotes

To make typographic apostrophes easier to enter, word processing and publishing software often convert typewriter apostrophes to typographic apostrophes during text entry (at the same time converting opening and closing single and double quotes to their standard 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 correct. Smart quotes features often 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 prime rather than an apostrophe is needed; for example, incorrectly rendering the latitude 49° 53′ 08″ as 49° 53 08". In Microsoft Word 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 Pascal, use the ASCII apostrophe to delimit string literals. In many languages, including JavaScript, ECMAScript, and Python, either the apostrophe or the double quote may be used, allowing string literals to contain the other character (but not to contain both without using an escape character), e.g. foo = 'He said "Bar!"';. Strings delimited with apostrophes are often called ''single quoted''. Some languages, such as Perl, PHP, and many shell languages, treat single quoted strings as "raw" strings, while double quoted strings have expressions (such as "$variable") replaced with their values when interpreted. The C programming language (and many derived languages like C++, Java, C#, and Scala) uses apostrophes to delimit a character literal. In these languages a character is a different object than a one-letter string. In C++, since C++14, apostrophes are also used as digit separators in numeric literals. In Visual Basic (and earlier Microsoft BASIC dialects such as QuickBASIC) an apostrophe is used to denote the start of a comment. In the Lisp family of programming languages, an apostrophe is shorthand for the quote operator. In Rust, in addition to being used to delimit a character literal, an apostrophe can start an explicit lifetime.

See also

*Apologetic apostrophe *Caron *Contraction (grammar) *Elision *Genitive case *Modifier letter double apostrophe *Possessive case *Wikipedia Manual of Style § Apostrophes for the use of different apostrophe characters within Wikipedia

Notes and references





External links

"Obsessed with Possessives"
The Carolina Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication article on apostrophe use with possessives.
The apostrophe character
Problems representing apostrophes on computers
The Apostrophe Protection Society

The Dreaded Apostrophe: An approach using a single rule only

How to use an apostrophe
The Oatmeal
"How the Past Affects the Future: The Story of the Apostrophe"
by Christina Cavella and Robin A. Kernodle
A humorous guide to proper and improper usage of the apostropheHumble apostrophe reprieved in council U-turn |The Times
18 March 2013
The Ultimate Flowchart to Using Apostrophes (Infographic)
{{Navbox punctuation Category:Latin-script diacritics Category:English orthography Category:Hebrew diacritics Category:Punctuation