If I were to say The skill is could I say it as The skill's? Or would this not work? Also, if it does work, could I apply to it to any word?


One of the functions of the apostrophe is as a written designation of missing letters. While it would probably be understood by native speakers that the word is is being shortened if you said, "The skill's hard to acquire," that's not really an accepted use of an apostrophe in written English. If you were to write dialogue, though, I think it would pass.

We do that in speech all the time for the verb is or has and other constructions that are not written out.

  • The dog's in the neighbor's yard again! (dog is)
  • The game's already started. (game has)

Could you apply it to any word? No more than you can use is or has after every word and have it make sense.

  • So actually using an apostrophe in the above phrase is more colloquial? – Harry Kitchener Apr 22 '14 at 21:56
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    In speech, yes, it's colloquial. – anongoodnurse Apr 22 '14 at 21:59
  • No, it's not. In speech there are no apostrophes; they're only for writing, so using an apostrophe is not colloquial, because "colloquial" means spoken dialog, not writing. Contractions occur in speech and they're colloquial; but apostrophes have nothing to do with the language. They're used as a crutch for the written language, to indicate a few changes in words forced by language change. The use of apostrophe for possessives, however, is simply silly, since it adds nothing useful and is mostly used wrong. – John Lawler Apr 22 '14 at 22:10
  • @JohnLawler: Saying colloquial can only apply to speech is a prime example of the etymological fallacy. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Apr 22 '14 at 22:14
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    The key word is "attempts". Anything that refers to a goal of the writer is automatically not part of language but of art, and it can only attempt to reproduce speech, never to actually achieve it. Written words are silent, as Socrates pointed out. Punctuation, as something unique to writing, can't be colloquial because it is standardized. – John Lawler Apr 22 '14 at 23:13

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