The Grocer’s Apostrophe


Mar 1, 2013 In the Grammar Tree 3 Comments

The apostrophe should not be used to make nouns plural. It is instead intended to allow nouns to show possession.  We make singular nouns possessive by adding an “apostrophe s,” and we make plural nouns, that don’t end in an “s,” possessive also by adding an “apostrophe s”.  If a plural noun already ends in an “s”, and they usually do, we just pop on an apostrophe after the “s” to make it possessive. A common mistake is to add an apostrophe and an “s” to make a word plural even when no possession is indicated.  In England this common mistake has a name: It’s called “the Grocer’s Apostrophe.”  To illustrate the point, one of my favorite readers sent in this photo—directly from London!


  • Susan Welsh
    Mar 1, 2013 at 10:48 am

    Can’t you put in some pictures of cute kittens? Grammar is boring. Just kidding!

    Your faithful reader in Blighty

  • James Sweet
    Sep 26, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Important side note: When referring to letters and numbers, a grocer-like apostrophe is acceptable and even recommended. For instance, “There are two T’s in the first word of this comment.” I balked at this rule at first, but it actually makes prose significantly more readable. For instance, there is a big difference between “Consonants are big trouble. As are vowels.” vs. “Consonants are big trouble. A’s are vowels.”

  • Karen Herbst
    Sep 26, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    James Sweet,

    Thank you for your interesting post! Karen

Leave a Reply