The head of our English department is going for her PhD right now, while still teacher. Several friends have told me that she says that apostrophes are totally unneccesary to show possession, because the majority of the time it should be obvious by context.
That’s exactly what she’s talking about. I didn’t know about this until I edited a friend’s paper and mentioned that she really needed to work on apostrophe use - I didn’t see one in the entire thing. Then she told me and I was :eek:.
For what it’s worth, German gets along fine without
using the apostrophe to indicate possession, instead
reserving its use to show missing letters, the way the
apostrophe is used for contractions in English.
Obviously the apostrophes aren’t absolutely necessary. When we communicate orally we get along fine without them, and when an ambiguous sentence such as the one cited in the previous post is not made clear by context, it can be rephrased. On the other hand, writing is in general less ambiguous than speech, and I don’t see any reason why we should abandon the convention of using apostrophes for possession. Is it too difficult for people, or something? Well, apparently it is, since so many people extend the usage to the forming of plurals…
Sorry, TWDuke, your example is way better than mine.
sundog66, I would say that writing is - in this particular context - in general more ambiguous than speech, since in speech there is a great deal of tone and nonverbal inflection that may be employed to give meaning.
I read (can’t remember where) that it was actually originally “The man his coat” or “The dog his ball”, The 's represents the contraction of the possessive pronoun (if true, then the masculine form must have been used for feminine pronouns too).