• Student's exchange
  • Family pride

For the above examples, I want to understand why the apostrophe is or isn't used? How does one determine this?

  • Students' exchange; family pride. – Ricky Oct 19 '15 at 3:41
  • @Ricky Yes, why so? what is the formula? – Learning Oct 19 '15 at 3:43
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    Scott describes the logic for this in the answer below. As for family pride, the word "family" here is really an adjective in disguise: it substitutes for "familial," which is archaic. – Ricky Oct 19 '15 at 6:00
  • Please search this forum for questions with the word "apostrophe". You will find dozens, all with good suggestions, explanations and rules. Voting to close. – Brian Hitchcock Oct 19 '15 at 6:56
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    Possible duplicate of Attributive or Possessive noun – Edwin Ashworth Nov 18 '15 at 11:36

Possession: Use an apostrophe to indicate that the noun to which the apostrophe is appended is the owner or possessor of the following noun or noun phrase.

"The student's union" is appropriate if the union is a thing owned by a single student to whom you're referring.

"The students' union" would indicate a union belonging to many students.

If the use is descriptive but not indicating possession or ownership, no apostrophe is used. Thus we could speak of "the students list" (a list of students, but not a list possessed by a student).

Here's a somewhat contrived example using all three:

"The first student's students list was more complete than the next two students' students lists."

Contraction: use an apostrophe to indicate omission of letters, as in "can not" -> "can't", etc.

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  • Hello, Scott. Would that it were so simple! Some people become apoplectic at the thought that the words mens, childrens might be considered acceptable, but most working mens clubs use the former rather than the apostrophised version. Writers' guilds vie with writers guilds. (Institutional) dogs homes and dogs' homes exist. And when it comes to companies like Lloyds and Lloyd's, and places named after, for example, St James ... but all this has been covered here before. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 18 '15 at 11:43
  • Those are all consistent. "Writers guild" or "mens club" are like the "vegetables section" of the supermarket. It isn't owned by vegetables, it's where vegetables are found. – Scott Nov 18 '15 at 22:34
  • No they're not. St James Park in Exeter contrasts with St James's Park in London and St James' Park in Newcastle. Redbud Writers Guild contrasts with The Long Island Writers' Guild. Whitworth Working Mens Club contrasts with Houldsworth Working Men's Club. Another example: Manchester Dogs Home contrasts with Manchester & Cheshire Dogs' Home. Usage is inconsistent; you're trotting out a style recommendation as though it were to be found in CGEL. And you need to say where you found it, if it's a quote; if not, you need to cite an accepted guide recommending this practice. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 18 '15 at 23:54
  • Yes, the usage of plural and possessive adjectives is inconsistent. I mean all of your examples are consistent with the rule that an apostrophe indicates possession (except when it indicates contraction, which seemed tangential to the specific question and example). – Scott Nov 20 '15 at 1:16
  • Wrong again. Dogs don't own the Manchester & Cheshire Dogs' Home. St James' Park and St James's Park both exist. I hadn't spelled these out, but I pointed to them as examples. – Edwin Ashworth Nov 20 '15 at 1:41

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