The apostrophe (' or ’) is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritical mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet and some other alphabets. In English, the apostrophe is used for three basic purposes:
The marking of the omission of one or more letters, e.g. the contraction of "do not" to "don't".
The marking of possessive case of nouns (as in "the eagle's feathers", "in one month's time", "at your parents' [home]").
The marking of plurals of individual characters, e.g. "p's and q's" or Oakland A's.
The word "apostrophe" comes ultimately from Greek ἡ ἀπόστροφος [προσῳδία] (hē apóstrophos [prosōidía], '[the accent of] turning away or elision'), through Latin and French.
For use in computer systems, Unicode has code points for three different forms of apostrophe.
When the noun is a normal plural, with an added "s", no extra "s" is added in the possessive; so "the neighbours' garden" (there is more than one neighbour owning the garden) is standard rather than "the neighbours's garden".
If the plural is not one that is formed by adding "s", an "s" is added for the possessive, after the apostrophe: "children's hats", "women's hairdresser", "some people's eyes" (but compare "some peoples' recent emergence into nationhood", where "peoples" is meant as the plural of the singular "people"). These principles are universally accepted.
A few English nouns have plurals that are not spelled with a final "s" but nevertheless end in an /s/ or a /z/ sound: "mice" (plural of "mouse"; also in compounds like "dormouse", "titmouse"), "dice" (when used as the plural of "die"), "pence" (a plural of "penny", with compounds like "sixpence" that now tend to be taken as singulars). In the absence of specific exceptional treatment in style guides, the possessives of these plurals are formed by adding an apostrophe and an "s" in the standard way: "seven titmice's tails were found", "the dice's last fall was a seven", "his few pence's value was not enough to buy bread". These would often be rephrased, where possible: "the last fall of the dice was a seven".
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