GrammarPhile Blog

It's Just Another New Year's Eve ... or Is It?

Posted by Terri Porter   Dec 31, 2015 6:00:00 AM

A new year is upon us, and with it comes the answer to that burning question that invariably crops up around this time: Is it New Years Day, New Year’s Day or New Years’ Day? It’s New Year’s Day, but attempts to explain why can generate even more questions.

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Topics: possessives, apostrophe

The Dark Side of Gerunds

Posted by Terri Porter   Sep 17, 2015 6:30:00 AM

Have you ever wanted to look up how to spell a word but couldn’t find it because you didn’t know how to spell it? That’s the same kind of problem many people have with this week’s topic: using possessives with gerunds. When you don’t know what to call the terms, how can you easily find guidance related to them?

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Topics: possessives, gerunds

April Aggravations Tourney Winners

Posted by Terri Porter   Apr 15, 2015 4:30:00 AM

Reflexive Pronouns Crowned Tourney Champ

Beating back the persistent Plurals/Possessives in overtime, Reflexive Pronouns narrowly won our April Aggravations tourney. Both had advanced to the final round after Plurals handily beat One Word or Two, and Reflexive edged the upstart Misplaced Modifiers in the Final Four.

We couldn’t have asked for a more exciting championship, as the two teams traded the lead throughout both regulation and overtime. But a last-minute surge by Plurals/Possessive’s fell short, and Reflexive Pronouns itself emerged victorious.

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Topics: homonyms, possessives, pronouns, grammatical errors, reflexive pronouns, collective noun, plurals, government-related words

April Aggravations: Antidote for March Madness Letdown

Posted by Terri Porter   Apr 9, 2015 6:30:00 AM

March Madness refers to the excitement, fervor and general craziness surrounding the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, during which upsets, buzzer beaters and rowdy celebrations are the norm. That all ended Monday night with Duke edging Wisconsin to claim its fifth national championship. Or did it?

For those who simply can’t wait another year, we offer our own version of the playoffs, with a grammatical twist: April Aggravations. Below you’ll find our Elite Eight list of contenders competing for the coveted title of “Most Annoying Grammatical Error Ever,” collected from our editors here at

Let us know in the comments below which ones you’d send to the Final Four, which two will end up competing for the championship and, finally, which error will win it all as “most annoying.” We’ll crown the winning pet peeve in next week’s post. Also let us know about others that grate on your nerves, and we’ll add them to the pool of contenders for our next grammatical error playoff.

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Topics: homonyms, possessives, pronouns, grammatical errors, plurals

More Questions for Our Grammar Experts

Posted by Conni Eversull   Jul 24, 2014 6:30:00 AM

Here are some more questions we've received from readers who are unsure about something they're writing. See their questions and test yourself against our experts.

After you've completed your answers, please click the link at the bottom of the post to see our Grammar Experts' answers.


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Topics: possessives, plural or singular verb, writing

Pondering Possessives

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 13, 2013 5:30:00 AM

Sometimes, possessives are weird. They play on our innate sloppiness, or on our analytical skills, or simply on our forgetfulness. What looks right is sometimes wrong, and vice versa. Here are some rules to ponder, analyze, and commit to memory, the latter being the way it is with much of grammar and punctuation, after all.

Two nouns as a unit. Closely linked nouns are considered a single unit in forming the possessive; only the second element takes the possessive form.
  • my aunt and uncle's house
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's musicals
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul's transportation system
  • my aunt's and uncle's specific talents
  • our friends' and neighbors' children

Compounds. In compound nouns and noun phrases the final element usually takes the possessive form. If plural compounds pose problems, opt for of.
  • a cookbook's index
  • student assistants' time cards
  • my daughter-in-law's office
  • the offices of both my daughters-in-law

Genitive. Analogous to possessives, and formed like them, are certain expressions on the old genitive case. The genitive here implies of.
  • an hour's delay
  • in three days' time
  • six months' leave of absence (or a six-month leave of absence)
  • three years' experience

Possessive versus attributive forms. The line between a possessive or genitive form and a noun used attributively--as an adjective--is sometimes fuzzy, especially in the plural. Although terms such as employees' cafeteria sometimes appear without an apostrophe, our guide dispenses with the apostrophe only in proper names (often corporate names) or where there is clearly no possessive meaning.
  • a consumers' group
  • taxpayers' associations
  • children's rights
  • the women's team
  • a boys' club
  • Publishers Weekly
  • Diners Club
  • Department of Veterans Affairs
  • a housewares sale

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Topics: possessives

Possessives in "of" Phrases

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 6, 2012 1:30:00 PM

We see mistakes often in the use of possessives. That's because there are rules and exceptions. Here are some rules.

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Topics: possessive form, possessives

Gerunds - Do You Use Them Correctly?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Oct 30, 2012 5:30:00 AM

A gerund is a present participle used as a noun. The word itself means "to bear" or "to carry on." In English, gerunds end in -ing. Being a noun, a gerund can be used as

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Topics: possessive form, possessives, gerunds

In Grammar, Possession is Less than Nine-Tenths of the Law

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Sep 13, 2012 5:30:00 AM

There are many rules in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It's important that you follow all of them in order to ensure that your documents are acceptable to all readers. We see many documents in which the authors' confusion regarding possessive punctuation is evident. The following list, taken from The Chicago Manual of Style(15th edition), will help clear things up:
  • Kansas's legislature
  • Chicago's lakefront
  • Burns's poems
  • Marx's theories
  • Berlioz's works
  • Strauss's Vienna
  • Dickens's novels
  • the Lincolns' marriage
  • William's reputation
  • the Williamses' new house
  • Malraux's masterpiece
  • Inez's diary
  • the Martinezes' daughter
  • Josquin des Prez's motets
  • dinner at the Browns' (that is, at the Browns' home)
  • FDR's legacy
  • 1999's heaviest snowstorm
  • Yahoo!'s chief executive
    Exceptions (for names of two or more syllables that end in an eez sound):
  • Euripides' tragedies
  • the Ganges' source
  • Xerxes' armies
    and (for words and names ending in unpronounced s)
  • Descartes' three dreams
  • the marquis' mother
  • Francois' efforts to learn English
  • Albert Camus' novels (the s is unpronounced)
  • Raoul Camus's anthology (the s is pronounced)
    Other exceptions:
  • for righteousness' sake
  • for goodness' sake
  • for Jesus' sake
  • Jesus's disciples


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Topics: possessives, punctuation, grammar

Possessives - Proper Nouns

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Apr 24, 2012 6:30:00 AM

Last week, we gave you some general rules on possessives. This week, let's focus on possessives of proper nouns.

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Topics: possessives of proper nouns, possessive form, possessives

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