If you are a parent of a child in primary school, you will probably be becoming aware of the increased focus on grammar and punctuation contained in the new National Curriculum. Your child’s school may have provided information about the new English grammar, punctuation and spelling tests which Year 2 and Year 6 children will be taking next summer. Depending upon when and where you went to school, you may find the information coming from school (and the terminology being used by your child) challenging. Whether you are bewildered by the terminology used or just want to know a little more to support your child, I hope you will find this blog useful. You can click on the Parent’s Start Page to link to information about different areas of grammar and punctuation. Alternatively, enter a term in the search bar or click on a word in the cloud of labels. If you have further queries, get in touch and I will try to help where I can.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Trickier apostrophes

Children will have learnt in Year 2 that 's is added to singular nouns to show possession (the cat's tail).  This is usually the same for a proper noun that already ends in s.  Examples are Charles's car, James's book.  When possession is shown in this way, the additional s is pronounced.  

As with everything in our language, there are exceptions to be found: for example, St. James's Park in London uses the 's, whereas St. James' Park, home of Exeter City FC, just uses the apostrophe on its own.  Very often the exceptions relate to names of places or organisations, so it is a good idea to check the source through an official document or website.

Sometimes names end in s, but to pronounce an additional s would be awkward, e.g. Achilles' heel, not Achilles's heel.  You wouldn't say 'I watched Kevin Bridges's show.' or 'I love Saint Saens's music.' Therefore, in these instances we would just use Kevin Bridges' show and Saint Saens' music.

There is much debate over whether proper nouns ending in a sibilant sound (/s/ or /z/) should take 's or just the apostrophe to indicate possession.  Writers make a choice about which convention they use and children will find exceptions and will delight in pointing these out to their teachers and parents.  I believe, when working with children, best practice would be consistency in adding 's, unless this makes the word awkward to say, or we just wouldn't even consider pronouncing the additional s.

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