Some English questions

Hello all,

Comprehensive replies to the blow questions are appreciated:
1- Do we use apostrophe “s” even for objects?
oxford dictionary example sentence: “the ship’s deck was awash with sea water”
2- Is this sentence should be said with apostrophe s, or no it’s OK as it is, or both of them are OK?
A- The new Kevin Costner movie
B- The new Kevin Costner’s movie
what’s the difference if we use “s” and if don’t use it? What is the basic and firm rule for apostrophe s, so that we never fail to use it?
3- Again, this question is about apostrophe “s”.
C- The bag buckle
D- The bag’s buckle
which one is correct? what’s the rule?
4- What does this phrase mean?
She’s a trip !
(from the movie Black Swan)

Yes. Generally when you’re making a possessive out of a noun, you add an 's to the end. The only common exception is when the word already ends with an s, in which case you just add the apostrophe to the end of the word.

You would call it the new Kevin Costner movie. In this case, Kevin Costner is being used as an adjective not a possessive. It’s like saying the new comedy movie or the new science fiction movie.

In this case, it would be the bag’s buckle.

This is a different use of the apostrophe. In this case it’s showing there is a contraction. She’s is a contraction of She is with the apostrophe indicating the missing letters.

If you’re asking what the idiom means, calling somebody a trip means they are entertaining in a excited way.

In addition to what Little Nemo said, you could rephrase this to use the apostrophe-s form again: “Kevin Costner’s new movie.” That is, again, a possessive form, as it implies Kevin Costner has some claim to the film by virtue of having appeared in it, but you can use that phrasing even if Kevin Costner doesn’t actually own the film in a literal or metaphorical sense.

I think there are some contexts in which a construction like “the bag buckle” might be acceptable. However, “the bag’s buckle” will always work and is usually much better. Otherwise, I fully agree with Little Nemo.

A mistake that seems to have caught on and so is seen less is “the 1980’s.” This is a plural not a possessive.

Of course the worst possible mistake nowadays from the point of view of college essay graders is “it’s” (contraction it is) as opposed to “its” (possessive). The fact that it is the possessive form that does not have an apostrophe is I think what traps people.

Same thing with “they’re” and “their.”

As a rule one does not form plurals with an apostrophe, the main exception being words of one letter: "There are five d’s, two u’s and two y’s in “fuddy-duddy.”

Not necessarily !

If you’re describing a buckle that is visible on a bag or something like that, then yes, you can say it’s the bag’s buckle. However, if you’re talking about a specific type of buckle that is designed for bags, then it’s a bag buckle.

I realize this is a weird example (who ever heard of bag buckles ?), however the distinction becomes more common when talking about e.g. belts. The belt’s buckle often is a belt buckle :).

No I think it well illustrates the idea of compound noun and the problem they present to non-native speakers.

Exactly. In the construction “the bag’s buckle” there are two separate nouns and objects, one grammatically related to the other. In “the bag buckle” you have two separate words, but a single noun/object.

The difficult part isn’t really the notion of compound nouns itself (as most languages have them), but they’re something of a crapshoot in English. Some are kept as separate words - like our belt buckle - while others are conjoined, as in “starfish”. Of the separate ones some definitely are hyphenated, some definitely aren’t and in many cases both are correct.

Which and why ? Ain’t no rules.

The “compound noun”, more properly called a “noun adjunct”, is used a lot in English. This means that one noun as being used as an adjective to modify or further describe another noun.

“Bag’s buckle” means we are talking about a bag, and the bag has a buckle, and the buckle belongs to the bag.

“Bag buckle” means we are talking about a buckle, and in particular a specific type of buckle that is designed to be part of a bag. Here, “bag” is modifying “buckle”.

Some other languages have this same construct, or a similar construct. Hebrew, for example, has a grammatical construct called smichut (סמיכות) that works similarly. Arabic and other Semitic languages have similar constructs. In English, the two nouns in some cases become a single word, as in “doorbell”, which we call a compound word.

I just want to point out that while I think your drive to master English is amazing, If I were you, I wouldn’t beat myself up if I mess up an apostrophe every once in a while.

Native English speakers screw them up with abandon, so the fact that you’re interested in learning the reasons behind the uses (or lack of use) puts you head and shoulders above a lot of Americans

I would endorse that; I use English as good as I can because that is how I was taught, but I tend to ignore the mistakes others make, just so long as I’m sure I understand. The old rules are dying and that is not a bad thing.

I understand the point you guys are making. As a real world example, English speakers would generally talk about a car door rather than a car’s door. But bag’s buckle is more normal than bag buckle and I think the OP was looking for what’s normal English and not a discussion of the theory.

Correct usage of apostrophe’s is, however, a requirement of all SDMB user’s! Make any error’s of omission or comission here, and get instantly banned, or at least a good intense Pitting! :slight_smile:

So if Reza really wants to learn her apostrophe’s, and learn it from people who have good incentive to always get it right, shes come to the right place!

Thank you all,

By the way, Reza is a he! ( and the way the first two letters (Re) sound, isn’t like re-do or re-elect, etc, but it sounds like remedy, rebel, Rebecca)

I would like to thank you all for all the comments and answers you put here. Actually I know the answers to all the questions I asked, but now and then I come and ask them here because I can hear different points of view with complementary explanations which they are all informative and constructive to me and I enjoy it. And this is not always true, and there are many occasions that I can’t figure out the message of the text, say comprehension questions, idiomatic expressions, or looking for equivalent phrases in English, then I come here.

To one of the posters who said most common mistake is that they write 1980’s instead of 1980s, I would like to mention that by writing 1980’s, I want to add that, 1980’s could mean 1980’s songs / bands / etc, ( all the songs / bands belonging to the year 1980, and not to its decade) so if you blame the writer, s/he could pull out this explanation and get away with his/her mistake! [ does it make a sense or I’m wrong?]

Yep, I understand that, and So do I! But what if you are a Teacher! [ then u need 2 be as precise as u can! , and above all, you ought to know all the reasons and explanations because others are going to rely on and follow you]

Can I nitpick a bit, with the understanding that I tend to think of myself more as a descriptive linguist than a prescriptive one?

Compound nouns are always conjoined. Ex: starfish.

“Belt buckle” is not a compound noun. It’s a noun, “buckle,” modified by an adjective, “belt.”

You’d certainly be “wrong” if you wrote “The beltbuckle is gold.” Likewise, you’d be wrong if you wrote “The belt-buckle is gold.”

Hyphenation, in general, is for transforming several words into an adjective phrase, especially now that we don’t really use typewriters, thus negating the need to hyphenate syllables at the end of a line.


The girl was twenty-one years old and brunette. (“twenty-one” is hyphenated because it needs to act as one adjective towards the noun “years.”)

Compare that to:

The twenty-one-year-old-brunette girl went to the store. (“twenty-one-year-old-brunette” is now all hyphenated because it needs to act as one adjective toward the noun “girl.” You can’t parse the sentence to say that the girl is twenty; the girl is one; the girl is year; the girl is old; the girl is brunette. All of the words in that phrase must act together, in order, to function properly.)

Another common error is the misuse of “every day” versus “everyday.” Both are distinct forms that cannot be reversed.

“I go to the store every day.”
“Going to the store is an everyday event.”

It’s sort of the same idea as “affect” vs. “effect.” One’s a noun, one’s a verb, and they don’t flip flop.