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ESL Easy Quiz

Nobody's Problem - Possessive Apostrophes

Quiz playing is a wonderful way to increase your knowledge of English as a Second Language. Remember that all of our ESL quizzes have titles that are both friendly and technical at the same time… In the case of this quiz you might like to tell your friends about “Nobody's Problem” but no doubt your teachers will talk about the “Possessive Apostrophes quiz”! If you hear a technical term and you want to find a quiz about the subject then just look through the list of quiz titles until you find what you need.

Possessive apostrophes are used when you are writing about 'someone's thing'. The apostrophe can be a difficult thing to master but don't worry! Even many English people struggle with possessive apostrophes. By the time you've done this quiz, it should be 'Nobody's problem'!

  1. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    Go and ask whether you can borrow your ... ... jacket.
    Presumably, the jacket belongs to only one brother. If there's only one owner, the possessive apostrophe goes INSIDE the word, just in front of the -S rather than on the back.
  2. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    She spent many years campaigning for ... ... rights.
    'Women' is an irregular (if very common) plural form.
  3. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    One more phrase from the very end of a famous English song (actually called 'Jerusalem'; by William Blake), which refers to
    ' ... ... green and pleasant land.'
    There is only one England, so it is singular and follows the usual rule!
  4. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    Their ... ... legs must have been very tired, after riding so far and fast on a hot day.
    Answer 2 is most probably right, unless more than one person was sitting on just one horse (i.e. 'plural ownership of a singular thing') ... in which case, no wonder the poor animal was so exhausted!
  5. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    In the famous Broadway song 'Night and Day', the singer thinks of his (or her) lover even when there is a lot of other noise and distraction going on, such as ...
    'In the roaring ... .... boom, I think of you Night and Day'
    'Traffic' is an un-countable singular thing, so the apostrophe comes inside the word, before the S.
  6. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    One of the best parts of the old TV series ' .... ... Army' was Corporal ... .... catch-phrases.
    Only one 'Dad'; and when we need the possessive form of a name that ends in S, we can either just put a single apostrophe after it (as in Answer 4), or some people prefer to put another S as well ('Jones's butcher's shop'). Many English people feel that is rather fussy, particularly if the name has more than one S in it anyway (as in 'Jesus's parables and miracles').
  7. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    She spends a lot of time looking out of the window and spying on her ... ... affairs.
    Answer 3 is most likely, assuming she has more than one neighbour (so that they are plural). If she only has one neighbour, she must be doing an awful lot of spying! The outer two answers (1 & 4) are each simply wrong.
  8. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    Another song for much younger people is called 'The ... .... picnic'.
    Answer 1 would have been possible if there were only one bear (but that wouldn't be such fun!); the correct title has several bears, so they are plural, with their apostrophe on the outside.
  9. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    They could see the shark approaching, baring ... ... great white teeth.
    Even though this is a Possessive use, there is NO apostrophe in 'its' (= 'belonging to it').
    Of course, you will often see an apostrophe in 'it's' (Answer 2) but here, the apostrophe is doing another job, showing that one or more letters have been left out ('It's a lovely day' = 'It is ...'; 'It's stopped raining' = 'It has ... ').
    Answer 3 is simply wrong; it looks as though it is trying to express plural ownership (as in 'The players' delight when their team won') ... but how can 'it' have been plural in the first place?
    The shark may happen to be male, but surely people are more concerned with the front end of it (i.e. the approaching teeth!) than whether this fish happens to be male or female, which you're unlikely to be able to tell from the front.
  10. Choose the best form of the word or words to fit into the gap.
    Sometimes we used to stop at a roadside pub where they offered ... ... meals at half-price.
    In this (fairly common!) case, 'children' is an irregular plural form that doesn't end in the usual -S; so the usual rules about dealing with S and/or an apostrophe cannot really apply. There is no such word as 'childrens', anyway ...

Author: Ian Miles

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