What does Veterans Day have to do with one of the most common grammar mistakes?

What do apostrophes have to do with this federal holiday? Well, there’s a confusing apostrophe in Veterans’ Day—or is there? Veterans Day is often incorrectly written as “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day.”

“Veteran’s Day” would definitely be incorrect because it means a day for only one veteran. While “Veterans’ Day” does encompass multiple veterans, that spelling is incorrect according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (also without an apostrophe). In the name of the holiday, the word “veterans” acts as an attributive noun, which means that it behaves like an adjective even though it is a noun. We use attributive nouns all the time without realizing it. For example, if you said “Last week, I went to the Cowboys game”, it is not grammatically imperative to include an apostrophe at the end of Cowboys, because Cowboys acts as an attributive noun.

(To resolve another confusing clause, learn whether daylight-saving time or daylight savings time is correct here.)

Apostrophes pop up where you least expect them, and their misuse distorts meaning and clarity. They are tricky little punctuation marks with multiple uses. Unlike commas and periods, they can actually take the place of letters (when used in contractions), and they also reveal the relationships between different parts of a clause when they make a noun possessive. Contractions—like they’ve, what’s, and she’ll—are almost as old as the English language. They reflect how we combine syllables in natural speech, and they are observed in written language as far back as Old English. In Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, thou art is spelled thart. Shakespeare also used them frequently in order to adhere to the meter of his plays. The antiquated word ’tis is a contraction of it and is; the first sound is removed instead of the middle syllable as is common today in the contraction it’s.

How about that other confusing apostrophe question—what’s with it’s and its? This is one of the most common grammatical errors seen throughout the English-speaking world. One means it is or it has and the other “belonging to it,” but which is which? In modern English, we use ‘s to signify possession because of the Old English grammar that added an s to display the genitive case, or the “of relationship.” Instead of saying, “That is the house of Jack,” with ‘s you only have to say, “That is Jack’s house.” You might assume, then, that it’s means “belonging to it.” However, its is not a possessive like “Jack’s house,” but rather a possessive pronoun (like hers, theirs, and ours) that does not require an apostrophe. So if you want to say “the pages of that book,” you say “its pages.” And as we’ve discussed, its brother it’s is a contraction that combines it with is or has as in “It’s been a long day’s night.”

Do you confuse it’s and its? What do you think of apostrophes?

Wisconsin briefs

Telegraph – Herald (Dubuque) November 2, 2007 | The Associated Press $40 million donated to college program MADISON – A $40 million donation announced Thursday will help low- income Wisconsin students attend college if they meet academic and service requirements during high school. website great lakes higher education

The gift from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation, a leader in the student loan industry, gives a major financial boost to the Wisconsin Covenant program.

The program asks eighth-graders to promise to earn a B average in high school, take courses to prepare for college, stay out of trouble and perform community service work. In return, the state promises them a spot at one of its universities or technical colleges and a financial aid package based on their family’s needs.

More than 17,000 current ninth-graders signed the pledge for the first time before a deadline in September.

Police identify dead bank robbery suspect STILLWATER, Minn. – The bank robbery suspect who police say shot and killed himself in the parking lot of a Stillwater hospital was identified Thursday as a North Dakota man who also is suspected of robbing another bank, police said.

Alfred Josiah Knodle, 53, of Fargo, N.D., died of a self- inflicted gunshot wound to the head after a police chase Wednesday, authorities said.

Stabbing fatality heading to court WAUSAU – A 19-year-old man was bound over for trial Thursday in a fatal stabbing last month at Schofield. go to website great lakes higher education

Judge Timothy Vocke found there is enough evidence for Devin Felix, of Wausau, to stand trial in Marathon County Circuit Court for first-degree intentional homicide in Sept. 8 death of Nathanial Davids, 18.

No date was immediately set for the trial.

Teacher reprimanded MADISON – A teacher who protested the federal No Child Left Behind law by refusing to administer a standardized test learned Thursday he will be disciplined for his actions.

Middle school teacher David Wasserman said district officials told him he will get a letter of reprimand in his personnel file for insubordination. And they warned he would be fired if he carried out another protest.

Wasserman sat in the teacher’s lounge on Tuesday rather than give his students the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Exam. Other teachers gave his students the exam.

Wasserman said he believes the tests are a poor way to judge students and are used to unfairly punish schools.

The Associated Press


  1. Bannana4422 -  November 12, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    God Bless America. Thank You Veterans !

  2. Courtenay -  November 12, 2012 - 11:51 am

    In Britain and Australia (and possibly in other Commonwealth countries – I’m not sure), we call it Remembrance Day. So this question doesn’t even arise. :)

    (I have never confused “its” and “it’s” in my life, by the way.)

  3. SexyCakes358 -  November 12, 2012 - 9:59 am

    I Love Veterans Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    = ) Lol

  4. YOP -  November 12, 2012 - 9:05 am

    This article is great. Keep up the GREAT work :)

  5. Access The Animus -  November 12, 2012 - 5:15 am

    Well I didn’t actually understand most of that. But I figured out when and where to use “it’s” and “its” in my own way for that very reason; no one else seemed to make any sense ;).

    I’m sure tons of other people found this really helpful though! Thanks for putting it up.

  6. Miss_Trollop -  March 7, 2012 - 9:00 am

    My favorite quote by Charles Dickens, to wit: “Most people are willing to work and the rest of us are willing to let them.”

  7. Tabatha♥ -  November 23, 2011 - 6:03 am

    heller to you missy i just wanted to drop in and say hello…. now ttyl

  8. Grady -  November 15, 2011 - 8:55 am

    Thank you for this interesting post.

    To answer another commenter’s question: Secretary’s Day is spelled Administrative Professionals Day! Actually, if you spell it Secretary’s Day, you need an apostrophe. If you spell it Secretaries Day you do not.

    English is not the easiest language to learn or master!

  9. bodinha -  November 14, 2011 - 10:56 am

    So, clarify once for all: is it driver’s license or driver license?

  10. Archon -  November 11, 2011 - 4:38 pm

    @ Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry

    If you can show me a posted bank book showing how much Daylight you have deposited, or even a coffee can full of it, I’ll admit that you have Daylight Savings. You can take advantage of the fact that it is present, but you can’t spend or use daylight because you don’t posess it. It’s like time-saving appliances or methods. YOU can’t actually SAVE time, any more than you can SAVE daylight. “Savings” is a concrete term, even if it/they is/are digital. As The Thing in the Fantastic Four says, “It’s villain clobberin’ time.”, not villain clobberin’s.

  11. Archon -  November 11, 2011 - 3:11 pm

    @ cjdclerk & Wingwalker80

    If you’d paid any attention to any of my posts, on ANY of these threads, including a couple just above the contentious one, you’d have realized what a tight-assed perfectionist and word-nazi I am.

    Mom in RI, see what I mean about that thinking thing. Too busy casting the first stone to perceive the informational value.

    NO! I’m not curious. Now I’m even more disappointed. What I was trying to be was educational, in a sarcastic, mocking way. Apparently I forgot to type in the warning that anything below a certain spot was a weak attempt at humor. Wingwalker got half the joke. cjdclerk missed the point entirely, and nobody else even wrote, Hey, isn’t it supposed to be stocking and/or moot?

  12. Karen -  November 11, 2011 - 10:53 am

    Same rule holds true for headlines in newspapers and yearbooks: boys soccer, girls tennis…it took me years to figure that out!

  13. JeffC -  November 11, 2011 - 10:03 am

    This is a really helpful article, so thanks for posting this. I’m a copy editor and I even see professional writers use apostrophes incorrectly. Something I thought was a little misleading here was how the article mentions that contractions were used as far back as Old English but then cites Chaucer and Shakespeare. Chaucer actually wrote in Middle English and Shakespeare wrote in Modern English. I bet most people think that what Shakespeare wrote was Old English, but trust me, if something were written in Old English, you probably wouldn’t understand a thing. I know I don’t! The author might not have purposely mislead readers, but the misunderstanding is there nonetheless. Anyway, that’s a small thing, but it’s something most people probably aren’t aware of.

  14. jason -  November 11, 2011 - 9:00 am

    i never knew that!!!!

  15. Mr. K -  November 11, 2011 - 8:56 am

    Sorry, but Jules is mistaken.

  16. Mr. K -  November 11, 2011 - 8:53 am

    If you don’t trust that both “Cyraus’ and Cyraus’s” are both correct, consult the book I use for teaching college English “Understanding and Using English Grammar” by Betty S. Azar & Stacy A. Hagen.

  17. Mr. K -  November 11, 2011 - 8:47 am

    @Cyraus: “Cyraus’ books” and “Cyraus’s books” are both correct.

  18. Harvey Wachtel -  November 11, 2011 - 8:18 am

    The problem with homophones is often not ignorance but carelessness. I know perfectly well what the difference is between there, they’re, and their is, yet I occasionally find I’ve typed the wrong one. It seems to me that people think orally/aurally even when reading and writing. The only cure is to re-read what you’ve written before hitting SEND or PRINT.

  19. confused -  November 11, 2011 - 6:56 am

    ‘Instead of saying, “That is the house of Jack,” with ’s you only have to say, “That is Jack’s house.” You might assume, then, that it’s means “belonging to it.” However, its is not a possessive like “Jack’s house,” but rather a possessive pronoun (like hers, theirs, and ours) that does not require an apostrophe.’

    Okay, about the above few sentences – am I to assume that if I write, “This is Jack’s house,” I leave out the apostrophe? So, it should read, “This is Jacks house,” as in “his house,” or “its house.” I find it hard to believe that any student could present that in a paper and not receive a correction from a teacher. I agree that in “its house” it is possessive, but in “Jacks house,” really?!

  20. Harry Powell -  November 11, 2011 - 6:10 am

    Since I don’t write to any lexicographers I feel save in using an [ ' ] any way right or wrong.

  21. Pinki -  November 11, 2011 - 1:56 am

    P.S. I just wanted to comment one more time so I’d have a total of five comments in a row :D

  22. Pinki -  November 11, 2011 - 1:55 am

    Oops, wrote my above comment twice…hehe. Well, mistakes happen. Yeesh -.- Anyways, I just wanted to say LOL to Bonnie, constancebonacieux, Platypus, and Di’s comment. Those just made me smile….
    Also, thanks once again, Dictionary for explaining things and make things a little clearer.

  23. Pinki -  November 11, 2011 - 1:45 am

    Btw, happy Veterans Day. (My comment is the first comment to be on Veterans Day on the article mentioning Veterans Day. I feel somewhat victorious. [HA! HA! HA! My comment is the FIRST one. THE FIRST!!!] Don’t ask; I’m a weird person sometimes. Maybe I had too much sugar in my cereal this morning…0_o)

  24. Pinki -  November 11, 2011 - 1:40 am

    Btw, happy Veterans Day :P (Mines is the first comment that was on Veterans Day on the article mentioning Veterans Day. I feel somewhat victorious [HA! HA! HA! Mines the FIRST comment. THE FIRST!!!!]. Don’t ask; I’m a weird person…maybe I ate too much sugar 0_o)

  25. Pinki -  November 11, 2011 - 1:36 am

    I can understand what everyone is confused about. I understand this article because I learned about attributive nouns in middle school. Perhaps this sentence will make things a little clearer: The Tigers stadium surrounded the enormous ball field. (It’s the first sentence that popped into my mind). I didn’t use an apostrophe after the “s” in “Tigers,” because Tigers, though a noun, is used as an adjective. Makes a little sense hopefully??
    @Elise E.: Lol, that’s a good quote. Isn’t it funny how those kinda things are funny, avoiding the stone to end up hitting a tree? It just makes me laugh for some reason… :D

    After reading the second part of my comment, I realized that I said “isn’t it funny how it’s funny.” That just kinda stuck out for some reason 0_o

  26. Nick -  November 10, 2011 - 6:43 pm

    I always thought ’tis meant “this is.” Opps.

  27. Dr Maurice Vermette PsyD -  November 10, 2011 - 6:17 pm

    There is nothing wrong in writing, let’s go celebrate Veterans Day…There is nothing confusing about that…….

    I am a Veteran, let’s celebrate that day…

  28. A-18-K -  November 10, 2011 - 5:33 pm

    @ constancebonacieux – You would have to be a very unique and odd person in order to have that as a favorite quote.

  29. Susan -  November 10, 2011 - 3:17 pm

    Ditto xphile611….Thought I was the only one in the world to find errors like these unacceptable, so it’s great to see that others have the same passion about the apostrophe (and all grammar for that matter) as I do! If you’re anything like I am, you have probably found apostrophe errors on almost every menu you have ever read, right? I can’t figure out why it’s so difficult to differentiate between a plural and a possessive, and a contraction and a possessive adjective “its” but then again, I was taught by the nuns who were excellent grammarians! Thanks for this great piece. I immediately posted it on my wall for everyone to enjoy!

  30. Cyberquill -  November 10, 2011 - 2:38 pm

    Apostrophes are cool, but their not my favorite’s.

  31. Susan -  November 10, 2011 - 1:41 pm

    So how do we get all the news media announcers, etc. to stop using it’s with the plural? “It’s some cars on the interstate” It’s some storms coming our way. They do this nearly all the time & it makes me grind my teeth. Do you suppose I could get them to pay my dental bill? LOL

  32. Stacia -  November 10, 2011 - 1:35 pm

    The most easy way to identify whether or not to use “its” or “it’s”, is to break the contraction and see if the sentence fits using “it is”, in place of the contraction. If it does, then “it’s” is the proper usage of the term. If not, then “its” is the appropriate term. Have fun playing with English!

  33. cjdclerk -  November 10, 2011 - 1:04 pm

    Archon, it would be a very dull task to stalk a shelf. Perhaps stocking a shelf would be more productive? And it’s “moot point” opposed to “mute point.” In case you were curious.

  34. callipso86 -  November 10, 2011 - 12:26 pm

    @xphile611 i had a 5th and 6th grade teacher that drilled english and its small, sometimes forgettable items into my head, since then I’ve seen “your” and “you’re” used incorrectly so many times…tis tragic…

  35. yodar -  November 10, 2011 - 11:50 am

    Sadly it is pretty common for people, native English speakers, to write plurals with and without apostrophes even in a single sentence. Like, “I like apple’s but hate oranges.” I wish I could read the minds of those folks to see just what the heck is going on in there.

  36. Mr. Raymond Kenneth Petry -  November 10, 2011 - 11:47 am

    I had to review a spec script (screenplay) once, that had every occurrence of, its-it’s, your-yore, ours-hours, their-there-they’re, permuted … definitely spec not spec.

    Apostrophes are more-confusing when trying to distinguish the two Charles’ house… should we have, two Charles’s's house, or two Charleses’ house?! (Charles, should be a character on the next Dumb-And-Dumberest.)

    If, Veterans Day, then why not, New Year Eve, and Mothers Day (It’s Mother’s Day)?

    But, Daylight Savings time, is most-correct probably for the fact that Daylight is not, being saved, but used– (cf ‘spending one’s savings’).

  37. Rico KG -  November 10, 2011 - 11:08 am


  38. q -  November 10, 2011 - 10:55 am


  39. Oakland Copywriter Rob -  November 10, 2011 - 10:44 am

    P.S. To the question above about “X years of experience,” yes, you can get rid of the “of” if you change it to “X years’ experience.”

  40. Jean -  November 10, 2011 - 10:42 am

    I’m 69 and it seems to me that learning about the apostrophe happened in grade 3. Why not just call it Remembrance Day like we do in Canada?

  41. Oakland Copywriter Rob -  November 10, 2011 - 10:42 am

    I’m so glad I finally learned about attributive nouns, as explained in the Veterans Day example. I worked with a wonderful and brilliant creative director at an ad agency and we often debated about whether the proper term is “Men’s Room” or “Mens Room.” I argued the latter, saying it was a room “for” men, not a room “belonging to” men. She argued that “mens” is not a word.

    Looks like I won.

    But she still has tons more money than me.

    So I guess she won.

    Hmmmmmm….. did ANYONE win? Let’s ponder this together: Hmmmmmm…..

  42. Pansophy -  November 10, 2011 - 8:57 am

    Wouldn’t we all be better off using our brains to try to solve real-world problems (wars, hunger, disease, environment, economy, etc.) ? Arguments about the proper use of the tick (“‘”) seems so innocuous.

  43. Roland -  November 10, 2011 - 8:54 am

    it’s as though its and it’s are simply not respected. So many it’s it’s a shame. Not enough its so that it’s a comma that could make sense of it. (Not enough its, so that it’s a comma that could make sense of it.) But quotations clarify this “its and it’s” discussion.

  44. hot -  November 10, 2011 - 8:47 am


  45. Raxin -  November 10, 2011 - 8:46 am

    Boo Bear said, “Apostrophe’s make me so mad. …I am actually a sophomore and I have better grammar, spelling, and punctuation than most adults that I know.” Boo Bear, the correct spelling is “apostrophes”.

  46. Roland -  November 10, 2011 - 8:44 am

    I had always thought that when referring to a specific word in a sentence such as “it’s,” one is supposed to put it in quotes. Throughout the article you use the words “it’s” and “its” without quotation marks, hence leaving them to appear as part of the sentence. Isn’t that itself an error? I may be out of date here, please clue me in.

  47. anon -  November 10, 2011 - 7:50 am

    Singular possession adds ‘s.

    But, an exception is made for certain historical names, including Jesus and those that end in -is or -es. (See The Elements of Style, Strunk & White — other authorities describe teh exception slightly differently. For example, Fowler suggests just the apostrophe where the last syllable is pronounced /-iz/ and for classical names.)

    Thus, Charles’s shoe, but Moses’ sandal.

  48. dhoot -  November 10, 2011 - 7:18 am

    I’m thinking that the word “Veterans” may be used as an adjective. However, it could (and, maybe, should) be possessive, too. Don’t we want to give Veterans their day. I think it could be used both Veterans’ and Veterans and still be correct depending on what you want to emphasis. Just a thought….

  49. Lumin -  November 10, 2011 - 6:16 am

    Argh! Another contributor to bad grammar – iPhones! I wrote pluralise but my iPhone changed it to plurals! It constantly does it so I should have checked sentence before posting!

  50. Lumin -  November 10, 2011 - 6:12 am

    Steve: I’m an editor and it’s ‘x years’ experience’ – think of it as a year’s experience then plurals it.
    Stephen: Nothing drives me nuttier more than 1970′s being used in ads for CDs (and it’s CDs not CD’s)!

  51. hannah -  November 10, 2011 - 6:09 am

    Hi! ~

    As far as I know, when a name ends in ‘s’ (e.g. Chris), we don’t need to add another ‘s’.

    Chris’ toys are the best. ^^

  52. Maybe Once -  November 10, 2011 - 5:33 am

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Now, will you please assist Apple in adding this to Siri so I will never have to think (or read) about it again? ;-)

  53. Christopher Schwinger -  November 9, 2011 - 10:35 pm

    I have a harder time with “lie” and “lay” than “its” and “it’s”!

  54. Kat -  November 9, 2011 - 8:18 pm

    I’ve always wondered about this. Veterans’ Day vs. Veterans Day.

  55. Mark -  November 9, 2011 - 8:07 pm

    Isn’t there suppose to be a hyphon between the attributive noun and the noun that it modifies?

  56. Kiwi John -  November 9, 2011 - 6:44 pm

    It’s all clear now! (Or is’t??)

  57. Taylor -  November 9, 2011 - 5:29 pm

    It drives me crazy when people put an apostrophe before the s to make the word plural. It makes me wonder what elementary school these people went to. ……That last sentence was grammatically incorrect, wasn’t it? D’oh!

  58. Eduardo Areingdale -  November 9, 2011 - 3:58 pm

    I remember one of my teachers in elementary school saying something confusing about apostrophes. I don’t quite remember which teacher, though. Well, because of this article, I can finally get a 6 on the FCAT! Woo!

  59. pieman569 -  November 9, 2011 - 3:55 pm

    this is very confusing

  60. Mrs.French -  November 9, 2011 - 3:44 pm

    This information was very useful.

  61. goose -  November 9, 2011 - 3:30 pm

    seriously. Im not the best english language person on the face of earth. i dont even get the difference between it’s and its.

  62. Kevin -  November 9, 2011 - 3:23 pm

    this article is mad annoying. its so confusing and hard to follow. you’re a dictionary website, next time use your thesaurus to look up some of those hard words that people don’t understand. then replace them with some words we do understand and write your article.

  63. sherryyu -  November 9, 2011 - 2:47 pm

    oh and wat about sleepys vs. sleepys’

  64. sherryyu -  November 9, 2011 - 2:45 pm

    to creamy because nothings up im sorry

  65. Olivia -  November 9, 2011 - 2:25 pm

    Thank you so much for posting this article to inform other people of the proper usage of its and it’s. As a 14-year old my grammar may not be perfect but this rule is one that I’ve known for a long time and I am so glad that other people can be aware of it as well.

  66. sherryyu -  November 9, 2011 - 2:16 pm

    sorry i was a litte bit cranky this morning

  67. sherryyu -  November 9, 2011 - 2:10 pm

    seriously i never new now can i go back to my hw u sleepy folks

  68. Wingwalker80 -  November 9, 2011 - 1:19 pm


    Nicely done, except that a “point” is inanimate and, therefore, cannot be “mute.” Next time, use the proper word “moot.”

  69. wistmal -  November 9, 2011 - 12:47 pm

    Why do you say “Happy New Years” for the coming New Year instead of “Happy New Year” ?

  70. VETERANS-DAY | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  November 9, 2011 - 9:43 am

    [...] ‘Veterans-Day’ for soldiers, — sailors and all the Men and Women of War — or not. — Tis the Drones and whatzat dey call it — ‘Collateral Damage’ — Who’s keeping score? – For What? – Wiki’s been whacked — Wall Street ‘hacky-sacked’ –  The ‘Apostrophe’s’  in its own World. — There’s no privacy anywhere to be had. — Ceptin’ what dey call security, — for the Wealthy, Powerful and attributive Comp Hacker Mad. — Beholding to Veterans to expand some USA National Maturity. — Rad. –>>L.T.Rhyme This entry was posted in DEMOCRAZY, DICTCOMHOTWORD, L.T.Rhyme and tagged De Nile, Democracy, LT, LTRhyme, the HOT WORD by admin. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  71. Darwin Christ Almighty! -  November 9, 2011 - 9:10 am

    If you don’t learn this in first grade, forget about it. Just keep spelling incorrectly.

  72. Valdir -  November 9, 2011 - 8:32 am

    It’s funny I never had any trouble using apostrophes or knowing the difference between “it’s” and “its”. Maybe it has something to do with speaking English as a second language, and with learning spelling before phonetics. On the other hand…

  73. creamy -  November 9, 2011 - 7:46 am

    hit me up later i’m in class so i better get off before i get in trouble
    so talk to yall at 3:00 pm. bye bye!
    Creamy mobin all day everyday!

  74. creamy -  November 9, 2011 - 7:42 am

    yall r really smart i would have never thought of that guys.

  75. Jon -  November 9, 2011 - 7:16 am

    Fortunately, I had Miss Emma Crow for Latin and later her sister Miss Anna Crow for senior English in the era 1955 – 1958 and I have never had a problem with “it’s” or “its” since.

  76. xphile611 -  November 9, 2011 - 6:28 am

    I consider misuse of apostrophes the most egregious of grammatical errors. The one that always gets me is YOUR instead of YOU’RE. I once saw a sign at a used car lot that read “YOUR APPROVED!” How did that manage to get through someone at the lot, the designer, the printer and the person who hung the sign and NOBODY realized it was wrong?!?!?

  77. LOUIS A. PAIZ -  November 9, 2011 - 6:12 am

    the apostrophe is correct in either way after the n or the s in veteran gives ownwership something personal that belongs to one person as individual after the s is a group something that belongs to a multitude, it is up to ones mind to apply it the way how it makes you feel more confortable to your ears.

  78. Daniel F. -  November 9, 2011 - 5:27 am

    This description couldn’t have been written better. Concise, to the point, historical, and with example. Brings back grammer school language classes that we shouldn’t have forgotten about…but did.

  79. Stephen -  November 9, 2011 - 5:27 am

    Pet peeve: 1970′s (or any other decade), such as “I love the music of the 1970′s.” Does that mean the music that belongs to 1970?

  80. Dubee'just thinking -  November 9, 2011 - 4:46 am

    RODERICK BOLAND on November 8, 2011 at 5:41 am
    Regarding it’s. I consider the ‘ as a tiny raised i. This is how I remember that it’s means it is.

    —>+1 to this guy.

    I never got confused with its and it’s. What I do is I “break it down.” If I need an “is,” then I use “it’s.” :3 Just that. But of course, I am also aware of possesive nouns/pronouns .

  81. MD. SAMI -  November 8, 2011 - 10:52 pm



    & CHATING ETC…………



  82. Sharon -  November 8, 2011 - 9:42 pm

    I appreciate the time you are taking to help people understand English grammar and spelling. I was an English major in college years ago, before email and “texting” were invented. Texting is shortening people’s attention span. Sentences and paragraphs just seem to get shorter and shorter. I became aware of this when my husband was asked to write a piece about his photography for an online magazine. By the time it was edited to one sentence paragraphs, what he had written couldn’t be recognized. He refused to put his name on it and they changed it back!

    Combine texting with email, and English can no longer be recognized. The pronoun, “I”, is often not capitalized in emails. The misuse of the English language is such a shame, and misusing words, such as the common mistake of substituting “nauseous” for “nauseated”, is nothing short of criminal.

  83. Di -  November 8, 2011 - 9:13 pm

    Personally, I have always had a great respect for the apostrophe………

  84. Platypus -  November 8, 2011 - 8:43 pm

    Nothing disgusts me more in terms of professionalism when a company incorrectly uses “it’s” for its publications etc.

  85. Jonky -  November 8, 2011 - 8:15 pm

    “What do apostrophes have to do with the federal holiday this Friday?” Well, what does this holiday have to do with the vast majority of the world? This is the WORLD Wide Web .. it would be nice if the US-only relevance of this holiday was noted in this article.

  86. Archon -  November 8, 2011 - 7:57 pm

    There’s that dashed dashing again. Of course I meant, supermarket.

  87. Archon -  November 8, 2011 - 6:58 pm

    It must be Bugs Bunny’s day off. Elmer Fudd is stalking shelves at the supermaket. Oh well, it’s a mute point.

    Please ensure mind is in motion before engaging mouth. (or keyboard)

  88. Marise -  November 8, 2011 - 6:10 pm

    ooooookay thnx for the info

  89. Archon -  November 8, 2011 - 5:27 pm

    @ Mom in RI

    Praise the Lord, and pass the thesaurus. Finally,someone who cares about corrrect usage, you and so many others on this thread. And you THINK about what you say and write! So many, today, simply don’t, or can’t. If you think of the word “elude”, you know that something is elusive, not illusive. If you think (know) what the word “eludes” means, you won’t post that, this reference eludes to that situation, hopefully you’ll use the word “alludes.” Even BooBear did so well. It’s just so ironic that (s)he put an apostrophe in the plural “apostrophes”. I dashed off a reply just yesterday to a brain-dead post – nine words and eleven usage errors. Dashed, not thought about, I must have thought I won an English award, I had two “apostrophy”s.

  90. Bob Beazley -  November 8, 2011 - 5:20 pm

    I’m surprised no one commented on the often used — and always incorrect — its’

  91. John Rhea -  November 8, 2011 - 4:45 pm

    Yes, I find the usage of its and it’s confusing. Sometimes, when my mother-in-law calls, and I need to let my wife know she is on the phone, I say “its vagina.” I now realize, after reading this article, I should be saying “it’s vagina”. Thank you Dictionary.com for helping me to better communicate with my family. I mean, why would I want to speak improperly and look like an oaf?!

  92. constancebonacieux -  November 8, 2011 - 4:31 pm

    Also, I agree with A-18-K’s idea about quotes- my fave for today(it kinda changes daily)- “A group of politicians deciding to dump a President because his morals are bad is like the Mafia getting together to bump off the Godfather for not going to church on Sunday.”
    -Russell Baker

  93. constancebonacieux -  November 8, 2011 - 4:21 pm

    umm… i think it’s very confusing! (get it? teehee)

  94. zsdfh -  November 8, 2011 - 3:07 pm

    hey u guy’s r such nerd’s. JK. but searusly i HATE english class..

  95. Jules -  November 8, 2011 - 2:58 pm

    The correct punctuation is “Cyraus’s.” I know it seems weird, but you are only talking about a particular thing (yourself), not a whole class or category. For a word like “boy”, when talking about the possession of two or more boys, is spelled “Boys’.” Like in the sentence, “The girl took the boys’ toys.” I hope this helps:)

  96. archer -  November 8, 2011 - 2:47 pm


  97. A-18-K -  November 8, 2011 - 2:45 pm

    @Elise E. – Ha! I like that one. Seems like a lot of people do that too. ;p

  98. Nshera -  November 8, 2011 - 2:19 pm

    Lezza, you’ve spelled patrons wrong. This article totally makes sense.

  99. MyNameIsn'tImportant -  November 8, 2011 - 1:46 pm

    “Cyraus’ books” and “Cyraus’s books” are both correct.
    I’ve never really had any issues with apostrophes.
    But I do have an issue with commas.
    Apparently, I use commas too frequently in the “wrong” places.
    But, I think “excessive” commas can be a stylistic thing that people shouldn’t pester you about (especially since I KNOW how to use commas. I just add a few extra ones to make my writing more dramatic).

  100. lezza -  November 8, 2011 - 1:33 pm

    I love shortening words like that. I feel like they can convey my voice better than totally formal writing.

    I second ptron’s motion that you italicize those words.

  101. Natasha -  November 8, 2011 - 12:56 pm

    you guy’s rock!

  102. Elise E. -  November 8, 2011 - 12:55 pm

    @A-18-K — My favorite quote, “Dodge a stone, hit a tree” -Elise E.-

  103. Vikhaari -  November 8, 2011 - 12:49 pm

    Do you confuse it’s and its? The question posed. No, I did not, though without properly understanding its unique origin of Old English. I need to read/study a couple more times to consolidate; hence, if I sound a little different, please forgive me. I am too excited like finding gold mine.
    Beautifully began with Veterans Day (which is only a few days to go on 11. 11. 11), an attributive noun because it functions as an adjective; therefore there’s no need of apostrophe. Apostrophes can be misused unless….
    Thank you Dictionary.com for the wonderful article on genitive case and its use s in its, its, hers, ours, yours, theirs (possessive pronoun) showing/meaning of relationship unlike ‘s in possessive case, “John’s bed.”
    Thank you once again.
    However…on another issue. The Word of the added/posted on the computer screen shows [Monday], November 7, 2011 somewhere from US of A assuming. And here … I write this on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. It is also seen “no comments,” noted in blue, while the dark red yet to put any number. Find it very hard to believe that there’s no comment yet to be posted. The moment this one will be there, it will not say number one but much more, perhaps or if not by tomorrow, definitely.
    Yet another situation for a while I noticed my name mentioned as a contributor: Such and such contributed, say a minute ago, a day ago, last week or a month ago. No more. They [last seen four] are gone. Somewhere something else, and of sinister nature, perhaps, is going on. In this day and age nobody cares, although this Dictionary.com is/has/must be …, sorry, English not being first lang, find difficult to an exact term…, good and bona fide for ppl like us. Thus we are—the 99%….
    Forgive me this must be noted although it is annoying to some. Sorry for any inconvenience.

  104. Smit Sharma -  November 8, 2011 - 11:46 am

    Oops…. THEY is what I meant to say in the last sentence.

  105. Smit Sharma -  November 8, 2011 - 11:42 am

    Yes, ITS and IT’S confuse me a lot but I’d like to thank you for giving such an interesting article for us to read. Apostrophe is really a confusing aspect English grammar has. The apostrophe was introduced into English in the sixteenth century in imitation of French practice however the started using it prominently after the 18th century

  106. BooBear♥ -  November 8, 2011 - 11:40 am

    Apostrophe’s make me so mad. People just don’t care about it, I guess. Lol. I am actually a sophomore and I have better grammar, spelling, and punctuation than most adults that I know. I think it’s pretty funny, and annoying at the same time. :P

  107. Steve -  November 8, 2011 - 11:22 am

    What about the expression “x years experience”? Can you use an apostrophe to take the place of the word ‘of’? Or must you always write “x years of experience,” or is “x years experience” correct?

  108. Liza with a Z -  November 8, 2011 - 10:59 am

    I wish some people would be a little more aware of apostrophes, especially the possessive. My friend has a cookie jar printed with “The Smith’s.” Drives me up a wall every time I see it. The fair people who sell the wood etchings with people’s names on it is quite funny, too. One of the displays is “Ron and Nancy: The Reagan’s” I’m not buying anything from him!

  109. Serge Palain -  November 8, 2011 - 10:57 am

    It happens sometimes when I am in rush and most often in computer typing. I think computers are great tools and are indispensable in this times, but in the same time are destroying the language. People are not focusing anymore on the quality of the text.

  110. A-18-K -  November 8, 2011 - 10:24 am

    Why don’t you ask people what their favorite quote is? That would be interesting.

  111. Ptron -  November 8, 2011 - 10:10 am

    I love apostrophes! Although, out of habit, I think I tend to overuse them in more formal writing. Then I have to go back and write them out. But they’re great for word economy in informal and conversational writing. “Th’art” is a fun one.

    I do have one request, though, “The Hot Word” author: Please italicize or put in quotation marks words used as words, such as “it with is or has” in the last sentence of the fourth paragraph. It makes the reading a little clearer. Thanks!

  112. creamy -  November 8, 2011 - 9:33 am

    hello why nobody answering me watz up like come on

  113. Bonnie -  November 8, 2011 - 9:18 am

    In the heat of today’s political climate, I half-expect a Presidential wanna-be to complain that “Apostrophes have entirely too much power!” While they do serve multiple purposes as well documented in the above article, apostrophes are more often misused than correctly used. Because they are so versatile, perhaps apostrophes should be labeled differently, according to their use. As far-fetched examples, when they are used to denote a possessive, they could be called “possesstrophes.” When they are used to show letter omission (as in contractions), they could be called “omisstrophes.” Could this re-labeling of specific apostrophe types lessen the confusion as to their correct usage? Could be. But I do have a request: When and if this re-labeling of the humble-but-quite-busy apostrophe finally DOES happen, please send me an Email on the topic. I like to be kept apprised of such things, before I wind up misusing these new “-trophes” myself.

  114. Jesse -  November 8, 2011 - 9:10 am

    Does this apply to Presidents Day?

    What about Secretary’s Day? That looks possessive to me.

  115. Craig -  November 8, 2011 - 8:56 am

    Now my brain hurts. Or is that, “hurt’s”? ;-)

  116. sexishanny -  November 8, 2011 - 8:50 am

    hey how ya’ll doin y don’t u write 2day

  117. iliana paola nunez -  November 8, 2011 - 7:41 am

    I have never made a mistake with veterans day I always write it plural although I thought I was writing it wrong

  118. Greg Coker -  November 8, 2011 - 7:30 am

  119. MISS WILLIAMS -  November 8, 2011 - 7:16 am


  120. John -  November 8, 2011 - 7:13 am

    I’m horrified at how many people use an apostrophe when making things plural … or is that: making thing’s plural. The great unwashed out there don’t have a clue. And unfortunately, English being a living language, all this malignant usage is being ACCEPTED in dictionaries and, in decades hence, will be legitimized into the language. In the immortal words of Bill the Cat: Aaak! Pthhh!

  121. michelle -  November 8, 2011 - 7:08 am

    The worst use (or misuse) of an apostrophe is on a professional sign. “Today only! Banana’s on sale!” Who is Banana and what of his is on sale?

  122. Francisca Sousa -  November 8, 2011 - 6:52 am

    Thanks for giving us this wonderful explanation. I really appreciated it.
    I’ve studied English for years, I really love this language. I’ve given some private English classes since I finished my English course, and some explanations like you give here are really helpful.

  123. bholland -  November 8, 2011 - 6:18 am

    So much trouble caused by such a little guy.

  124. Ole TBoy -  November 8, 2011 - 6:10 am

    Nice explaination of the differences between “it’s” (it is/it has) and “its” (possessive). Well done. Now hit us with “your” (possessive) and “you’re” (you are) for these are mightily misused by young writers– even ostensibly well educated ones.

  125. RachelAllison -  November 8, 2011 - 6:04 am

    Wow…. that’s very helpful! I confuse it’s and its all the time. Thanks!

  126. flueln -  November 8, 2011 - 5:53 am

    Too true. Saw a cute video yesterday of Inuit children holding up signs to the Hallelujah Chorus. Was ok until the got to: “King of King’s” and “Lord of Lord’s” — too annoying!

  127. Mom in RI -  November 8, 2011 - 5:51 am

    Even though I’m pushing 60 and a self-professed grammar Nazi, I still have to think to myself whether “it’s” can be split into “it is” in the sentence in order to know whether or not to put in the apostrophe. Same thing with separate: I say to myself “separate a rat” in order to make sure I spell it right. There are lots of other reminders I use. I guess there’s really nothing wrong with having all these little tricks to ensure proper spelling and grammar. It’s better than not even bothering to take the time to think about whether one is using the correct word or the correct spelling.

  128. RODERICK BOLAND -  November 8, 2011 - 5:41 am

    Regarding it’s. I consider the ‘ as a tiny raised i. This is how I remember that it’s means it is.

  129. Cyraus -  November 8, 2011 - 5:32 am

    I always have come across the errors of “it’s” and “its” in other people’s writing. It’s pretty simple. Possessive nouns have the “apostrophe s” and possessive pronouns have just the “s”.
    What I’m often confused with the apostrophe is how to use it with a name that ends in an s.
    “Cyraus’ books” or “Cyraus’s books”. I see it used either way but which one is correct?

  130. Emilia -  November 7, 2011 - 11:37 pm

    Honestly this article is confusing


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