What Is the Grocer's Apostrophe?
The Quick AnswerA grocer's apostrophe is a spelling mistake caused by placing an apostrophe before the s of a plural word.
Do not be tempted to use an apostrophe just because a word ends in "s." For example:
- Two cats (This is the plural of "cat.")
- Two cat's (This is not the plural of "cat.")
- Time flies
- Time fly's
The Grocer's ApostropheA grocer's apostrophe is a spelling mistake caused by placing an apostrophe before the s of a plural word. In English, the plural form of a word is most commonly shown by adding an s to the end (e.g., "cats," "bananas," "pictures"). Don't add your own apostrophe!
In other words, do not add 's to the end. Just add s.
The plural forms of words ending in vowels (e.g., "video," "patio") are extremely prone to this error. Forming a plural by adding 's is a common mistake, and it is considered a grammatical howler.
Examples of Apostrophe ErrorsHere are some examples of writing mistakes involving apostrophes:
- Dog's look up to us, and cat's look down on us. I prefer pig's — they treat us as equal's. (badly transcribed version of a Winston Churchill quote)
- Anteater's prefer termite's to ant's.
- Pearl's melt in vinegar.
- Rent two video's for the price of one.
- Three large male lion's approached the 4x4.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarf's. ("Dwarfs" or "dwarves" would have been okay here, but not "dwarf's" or "dwarve's.")
The Grocer's ApostropheAs fruit and vegetable stalls often display this error, it has come to be known as the "grocer's apostrophe."
- 2 melon's for a pound
- 1 kg of apple's for a dollar
Slider Showing Apostrophe Error with PluralsThe following slider shows 11 pictures (mostly signs) with apostrophe errors:
This is an example of a grocer's apostrophe. It should be "apples" not "apple's."
This is an example of a grocer's apostrophe. It should be "bananas" not "banana's."
This is an old picture, but it's a classic. How did the sign-writer get this wrong?
Words that end in vowels are particularly prone to this error.
Oh, come on! If it's your job to create shop signs, get the basics right.
Dear tattoo artists, please spend five minutes learning about apostrophes.
Mango's, plum's, lime's, and pair's [sic].
This is a festival of grocer's apostrophes!
Some people should known better.
A word that ends in a vowel is more likely to attracting this mistake.
Someone spent time carving out those letters. It's a nice sign. But...
Here's one more grocer's apostrophe to end the slider.
Without the Grocer's ApostropheHere is an example with "tomatoes" spelled correctly (i.e., there's no grocer's apostrophe):
(This is correct - except they're apples not tomatoes.)
When to Use ApostrophesThe rules on using apostrophes can be summarized:
- To replace missing letters
- To show possession
- Sarah's jumper
- The dog's toy
- The dogs' kennel
- In temporal (or time) expressions
- 3 months' wages
- A day's leave
- 2 days' notice
- To show the plural of an awkward abbreviation, letter or number
- BUY THREE CD'S.
- Mind your p's and q's.
- Your 5's look like 6's.