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October 22, 2018


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For four years, law school has beaten into me that sentence grammar and punctuation marks matter. There is no excuse for using punctuation incorrectly.

Imagine my chagrin when, in the middle of enjoying "Three Days Napeagueing," I encountered a possessive personal pronoun using an apostrophe! It's unthinkable!

I realize that English personal pronouns are irregular. But they never use an apostrophe to form the possessive. The only time a personal pronoun should be followed by an apostrophe is as part of a contraction, e.g. with certain forms of the English verb "to have" or the (highly irregular) English verb "to be."

The singular English personal pronouns are: I, you, he, she, and it.

The plural English personal pronouns are: we, you, and they.

Consider the following present-tense sentences that apply these personal pronouns to a sentence of the form:

[nominative personal pronoun] [the verb to have] "demonstrated that" [nominative personal pronoun] [the verb to be] [nominative possessive personal pronoun] "grammar skills are" [objective possessive personal pronoun].

I've demonstrated that I'm sure my grammar skills are mine.
You've demonstrated that you're sure your grammar skills are yours.
He's demonstrated that he's sure his grammar skills are his.
She's demonstrated that she's sure that her grammar skills are hers.
It's demonstrated that it's sure its grammar skills are its.
We've demonstrated that we're sure our grammar skills are ours.
You've demonstrated that you're sure your grammar skills are yours.
They've demonstrated that they're sure their grammar skills are theirs.

The only apostrophes are in contractions. Apostrophes are not used to form possessives.

Does that help? And, yes, I see the ambiguity raised by the fact that the singular and plural of "you" are indistinguishable. If the verb "to be" were more sensibly conjugated, the singular version might be the following:

You've demonstrated that you's sure your grammar skills are yours.

But that's not the way it is.

First of all the once Mighty Larry Hoff don't sail 'round here no more, so who cares? :)

Secondly of all, let us love that you go right past "Napeagueing". Of course all regular readers of the Peconic Puffin are accustomed (ie acclimated to the pain) of my coined words.

Thirdly I'm not sure of what you are taking offense. Was it "ABK'ers"? That looked odd when I reviewed it just now, so I changed it, but it might have been fine. And now I've fixed "it's". Blah blah blah. You were more fun when you were teaching me to helitack.

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    "It's good to have a shredmobile" my friend Caldwell said, so I made one. It's a Ford E150 cargo van done up with lumber and k-mart plastic boxes.