English in Use/Apostrophes< English in Use
|General||Contents • Introduction|
|Parts of speech||Articles • Nouns • Verbs • Gerunds and participles • Pronouns • Adjectives • Adverbs • Prepositions, Conjunctions and Interjections|
|Other topics||Orthography • Punctuation • Syntax • Figures of Syntax • Glossary|
An apostrophe can be used to form possessives for nouns, indicate the omission of letters in a word for stylistic purposes or as a colloquial form of a word, and be used to indicate plurality.
The term is derived from the Latin word apostrophus itself derived from the Greek words αποστροφος meaning accident of elision αποστρεφειν meaning a turning away.
The apostrophe usually denotes either the possessive case of a noun, or the elision of one or more letters of a word: as,
- "The girl's regard to her parents' advice;"
'Gan, lov'd, e'en, thro'; for began, loved, even, through.
It is sometimes used in pluralizing a mere letter or sign: as,
- "Two a's—three 6's."
Apostrophe is also a figure of speech in which an absent person, a personified inanimate being, or an abstraction, is addressed as though present.
This sense is maintained when a narrative or dramatic thread is broken in order to digress by speaking directly to someone not there, e.g.,
- “Envy, be silent and attend!”—Alexander Pope.
- “On a Certain Lady at Court.”