Monday, June 08, 2009

Apostrophes

This is part of an advertisement currently seen on trains in Singapore. The last sentence of the body text reads: Dengue season is here, don’t be it’s next victim.

The first apostrophe is correct but not the second. Make it: Dengue season is here; don’t be its next victim. Interestingly, the slogan at the bottom gets it right, however: It’s your life. It’s your fight.

Many people confuse its and it’s — to careful writers, this is one of the surer signs of semi-literacy. The first is a possessive determiner that goes before nouns (e.g. its name), while the second is a contraction of it is (e.g. It’s time to leave).

It is worth remembering that apostrophes help indicate omitted matter, so don’t, it’s and can’t are contractions of do not, it is and cannot.

The fact that ’s is often used to indicate possession — for example, in Mark’s, Singapore’s, and Jupiter’s — may be one reason people think it logical to use it’s as a possessive determiner. However, it is worth noting that possessive ’s attaches only to nouns, and not to pronouns.

2 comments:

Alvin Lee said...

Yes..I recall seeing this mistake on the MRT sometime ago. I wanted to show my wife this error on the next trip (about one week later), but it was rectified already!

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Really? That's good to know!