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Quick Questions: On Apostrophes April 26, 2012

Part of our work at the Writing Center includes responding to “Quick Questions” asked by writers from within and beyond the DePaul community. By posting the questions from writers and answers crafted by our tutors, we hope you just might discover the answer to a question you have always wanted (or never thought) to ask!

Question:

Where do I use the apostrophe?

I wanted to ensure our teams win.

Is it team’s win or teams’ win? Or do I not use one?

Response:

Dear _____,

Thank you for using the Writing Center’s Quick Question service!

One way apostrophes can be used is to show possession. For example: Laura’s book rocks. The book belongs to Laura, so an apostrophe is needed to indicate that possession.

  • When the noun is singular, the apostrophe goes before the “s”: Laura’s book rocks. (There is only one Laura.)
  • When the noun is plural, the apostrophe goes after the “s”: The girls’ books rock. (There is more than one girl.)
  • When a noun is singular and ends with an “s,” the apostrophe goes after the “s” and you can choose whether or not to add the second “s:” Charles’ books rock. or Charles’s books rock.

Another common way that an apostrophes are used is with contractions. For example: Laura’s going for a run. It’s especially common in casual conversation for us to combine words with an apostrophe (e.g. don’t, it’s, he’ll, you’re, etc.).

Your example is tricky because it depends on how you interpret the sentence and what you mean to say. Is “win” a noun possessed by the team/teams or is it a verb that the team/teams will do?

I understand the sentence as: I wanted to ensure [that] our teams [will] win. This statement doesn’t indicate possession, nor does it use a contraction. Therefore, my interpretation does not require an apostrophe (nor does it necessarily require my insertions, especially if this is an informal conversation).

If you want to indicate that “win” is a noun that belongs to the team/teams, you would use an apostrophe and decide whether it you are discussing one or many teams to place the apostrophe accordingly.

If you wanted to express that one wants to ensure that the team will win, you could use an apostrophe between the team/teams and “will” to express this interpretation.

I hope that you find this helpful! Resources are available below.

Additional Resources:

 For more information on apostrophe use, both for possession and for contractions, click here:
http://condor.depaul.edu/writing/writers/Grammar/punct.html#apostrophe
http://grammar.about.com/od/punctuationandmechanics/tp/GuideApostrophe.htm

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