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Category : Mechanics

Forming Possessives

Possessives are used to indicate ownership. The possessive forms of nouns indicate that something (the second of two nouns) belongs to (is possessed by) the noun in question.

For singular nouns (e.g. dog, girl, book) possessives are formed by adding an apostrophe and then an “s”, as in:

  • The dog’s owner was away on vacation.
  • We don’t know the girl’s name.
  • The book’s chapters are all very interesting.

The possessive forms of plural nouns are formed in one of two ways. When the plural of the noun in question ends in “s” (e.g. dogs, girls, books), possessives are formed by adding an apostrophe after the “s”. No additional “s” is necessary. For example:

  • The dogs’ owners were away on vacation.
  • We don’t know the girls’ names.
  • The books’ covers were difficult to tell apart.

When the plural of the noun in question does not end in “s” (e.g. children, women, people), possessives are formed by adding an apostrophe and then an “s”. For example:

  • The children’s department features a variety of styles.
  • Susan enrolled in the Women’s Studies Department.
  • People’s thoughts are often not aligned with their actions.

When more than one noun possesses the same item (e.g. two people own a car together), only the second noun takes the possessive form, as in:

  • The point of Ackerman and Tolson’s study was to highlight deficiencies in the literature.
  • Jared and Claire’s dog looks like a mixed breed.
  • I think Sue and Jim’s car would look better in blue.

However, when two or more nouns have possession of different forms of the same item, all nouns take the possessive, as in:

  • The women’s, men’s, and children’s departments are on different floors.
  • Sarah’s and Tiffany’s grades are vastly different.

Note that possessive adjectives (e.g. yours, ours, theirs, hers) need no apostrophe:

  • This is yours?
  • Ours were excellent seats.
  • I thought it was theirs, but I wanted to be sure.
  • When you bring hers, please also bring mine.

Subordinating Conjunctions

Subordinating conjunctions – e.g. “while”, “though”, “however”, “despite”, “because”, “since” – imply that one condition in a sentence depends on (i.e. is subordinate to) another. Commonly, they are used to indicate exceptions to a rule or highlight an alternative, as in:

  • While he was happy in his new home, he missed his friends and family.

The same sentence could just as easily be written as:

  • Though he was happy in his new home …
  • Although he was happy in his new home …

Here’s another example:

  • While there are numerous ways to learn a language, the best is through a combination of study and application.
  • Though there are numerous ways to learn a language …
  • Although there are numerous ways to learn a language …

These sentences can also be written using “however”.

  • He was happy in his new home. However, he missed his friends and family.
  • There are numerous ways to learn a language. However, the best is through a combination of study and application.

Consider the last example. “However” does not always have to appear at the beginning of a sentence but may appear between the subject and verb in a clause, as in:

  • There are numerous ways to learn a language. The best, however, is through a combination of study and application.

Or “however” may appear between two clauses in a sentence, as in:

  • He thought he knew a lot about the rainforest. While talking with a scientist, however, he realized that he had much to learn.

Despite, nevertheless

Like “however”, “while”, “although”, and “though”, “despite” and “nevertheless” can be used to indicate that, although one condition exists, another condition is still possible.

  • Despite calling several times, he never received a reply.
  • Despite preferring to go to the park, he agreed to go to the movies.

Note that the last sentence can also be written as:

  • He preferred to go to the park. Nevertheless, he agreed to go to the movies.
  • He preferred to go to the park. However, he agreed to go to the movies.
  • While he preferred to go to the park, he agreed to go to the movies.
  • Though he preferred to go to the park, he agreed to go to the movies.
  • Although he preferred to go to the park, he agreed to go to the movies.

In this case, while the subject’s preference exists, it is still possible that he will act in a way that doesn’t agree with this preference.

Thus, therefore, because, since, as, hence

“Thus”, “therefore”, “because”, “since”, “as”, and “hence” are used to imply that one condition follows from (i.e. is caused by) another.

  • Because he had the flu, he did not go to work.
  • Since he had the flu, he did not go to work.
  • As he had the flu, he did not go to work.
  • He had the flu. Therefore, he did not go to work.
  • He had the flu. Thus, he did not go to work.
  • He had the flu. Hence, he did not go to work.

Please be aware, however, that “therefore”, “thus”, and “hence” tend to be used in more formal (e.g. academic) contexts and would be less appropriate in the former example than “because”, “since”, and “as”.

Compound Verbs

A compound verb is a combination of two verbs: 1) A so-called “auxiliary” verb – meaning, basically, an “additional” verb, and 2) a participle – past or present – that is essentially the “main” verb and that follows the auxiliary verb. For example:

  • Sarah was walking to the store when it started to rain.

“Walking” is the present participle (of “to walk”), and “was” is the auxiliary verb used in addition to “walking” (which is the main activity), to indicate that the walking Sarah did was ongoing.

The past participle of “to walk” can also be used in compound verbs, as in:

  • By the time Sarah had walked to the store, it had started to rain.

In this example, “had” is the auxiliary verb, and “walked” and “started” are the past participles (of “to walk” and “to start”).

Here are some other examples of compound verbs:

  • The point that Joan was trying to make was lost on her audience.
  • The meeting will reconvene in ten minutes.
  • Our professor has been talking for a very long time.
  • Our professor had been talking for a very long time when the bell rang.

Note that the auxiliary verb always orients the action in time – indicating whether the action is occurring, has already occurred, or will occur at some point in the future. Also, consider that:

“Had” (as in “had been talking”) is generally used to indicate that an action “had already occurred” (the “already” is implicit) – usually by the time that some other action took place.

“Has” (as in “has been talking”) is typically used to indicate that an action has already occurred and imply continuity (implied in “our professor has been talking for a very long time” is the thought “and may continue to keep talking”).