Style Quiz: Possessives

Just so we’re clear, I’m not talking about fashion. Correct apostrophe use with possessives is something even the best grammarians need a reminder of from time to time. Let’s start with the basics:

The boy’s ball rolled into the water.

There is one boy and the ball that belongs to him rolled into a stagnant, murky creek.

The boys’ ball rolled into the water.

There is more than one boy and their ball rolled into the surf before being swept out to sea.

Got it? Oh, almost forgot: There are some exceptions. For example, some words form a plural without an ‘S,’ as follows:

The woman’s laptop doesn’t become the womans’ laptop just because there is more than one woman. It would, of course, become the women’s laptop, just as several people licking one Popsicle becomes the people’s Popsicle and more than one mouse sharing a Bible would make it the mice’s Bible.

Still with me? I won’t get into the whole “its versus it’s” dilemma, since I already wrote about that in a previous post. Instead, let’s do some exercises. You put the apostrophe in the correct place. Not all sentences need an apostrophe.

  1. Even with the support of Hillary Clintons wealthy patrons, she was not able to pull through on election night.
  2. Wow, check out those dogs teeth! They’re so mangled and brown that they look like tiny Twix bars.
  3. Get a load of that dogs food bowl. Its owners clearly don’t know when to say no.
  4. The Joneses had a nice vacation in the Yukon. Sure, Billys leg got chewed off by a grizzly, but what’s a vacation without a little adventure?
  5. The tigers belly was growling.
  6. There were a whole bunch of tigers at the zoo.
  7. The Trumps own several ostentatious homes.
  8. Donald Trumps wife is an immigrant.
  9. Even with all five of my bosses contributions, the party will only have seven dancing clowns.
  10. That clowns shoes look uncomfortable. Have you ever seen a clown in stilettos?

Answers:

  1. Even with the support of Hillary Clinton’s wealthy patrons, she was not able to pull through on election night.
  2. Wow, check out those dogs’ teeth! They’re so mangled and brown that they look like tiny Twix bars.
  3. Take a load of that dog’s food bowl. Its owners clearly don’t know when to say no.
  4. The Joneses had a nice vacation in the Yukon. Sure, Billy’s leg got chewed off by a grizzly, but what’s a vacation without a little adventure?
  5. The tiger’s belly was growling.
  6. There were a whole bunch of tigers at the zoo. (No change)
  7. The Trumps own several ostentatious homes. (No change)
  8. Donald Trump’s wife is an immigrant.
  9. Even with all five of my bosses’ contributions, the party will only have seven dancing clowns.
  10. That clown’s shoes look uncomfortable. Have you ever seen a clown in stilettos?
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