The apostrophe that few people get

Most professionals get the apostrophe. They understand when to use it, when not to, what it signifies and most of the rules associated with it. They know that it’s important that its use is correct. And they’re confident in their ability to use them correctly.

But there is one apostrophe use that always divides opinion and gets people debating, often vehemently. I have no idea what it’s called. But I know how to use it. Below is an example sentence.

Please can you give me two hundred pounds’ worth of dollars?

From the discussions I’ve had about it, most people will not use an apostrophe. Nor will they think one’s necessary when prompted. But the apostrophe is necessary, and not using one is, technically, grammatically incorrect.

For a moment, consider its singular equivalent.

Please can you give me a pound’s worth of gobstoppers?

Now apart from swapping dollars for gobstoppers, mainly to lighten the mood, the only change is reducing the two hundred to one.

In this latter example, I don’t think any semi-educated person in their right mind would think of leaving the apostrophe out. But by pluralising the amount, suddenly it becomes confusing.

This apostrophe will be the first to disappear as English changes and grammatical correctness becomes compromised with time. And eventually, likely in my lifetime, it will become grammatically incorrect to use one.

Posted by Dan, 21 December, 2011 under Grammar


  • … And I for one, will mourn its passing (iPhone autocorrect nearly added an extra one in there for me).

    Posted by Jayne Hilditch, 21 December, 2011, 10:57pm

  • To Jayne Hilditch – should iPhone have inserted a comma after “I”? Hey ho.

    Posted by Peter Harrison, 3 January, 2012, 11:37am

  • Or, in the vernacular of the seven dwarfs / dwarves / one dwarf and his six mates, “Hi ho”. Hey ho.

    Posted by Peter Harrison, 3 January, 2012, 11:46am

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