Article Apples and Orange's


The so-called grocer's apostrophe, where it is used incorrectly in plurals, is one of the most common mistakes made by native speakers in English. Why is it that something so simple causes so many problem? The apostrophe only has two functions, yet it seems that many people leave school with little or no idea of either of them.

I saw the example in the title in a market in Soho and wondered what on earth possessed the stall holder to put the apostrophe in one fruit, but not in the other. Maybe he thought that imported or citrus fruits require an apostrophe. If he had done it in both, at least his error would have shown consistency.

Not teaching native speakers, I don't see this error as much in my students' work. Why is it that foreign learners seem to handle this better than many NESs?

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Perhaps it is this simplicity that is to blame. Perhaps native students feel that as it's so simple they will pick it up without really trying?

And then fail to learn it with any degree of accuracy? In the fruit example, there is a complete absence of any knowledge of any rule or understanding.

Should it be grocer's or grocers'? You generally see the singular, but I've always wondered. I like the idea of the purists getting this wrong.

>>Should it be grocer's or grocers'?<<

I believe either makes sense. Compare Reader's Digest.

I think either's fine, but use the singular to be more optimistic. ;-)

Logically, the plural is right, unless we are referring to a specific greengrocer.

I don't know how punctuation is taught to NES in England now in 2003 as opposed to NNES. Perhaps this is a reason for the grocer in Soho to slap a fancy apostrophe on the oranges but not anything else. A bit of laissez-faire? Did his pen run out of ink?
NNES probably have more motivation to learn points of grammar; you have to be a motivated person to want to learn English! An NES graduate has this on his required curriculum, so the motivation may not be there.

Unfortunately, resident NNESs are exposed to so much error that it can rub off. ;-)

Is punctuation taught? It doesn't seem to be learned very well.

I'm going off on a bit of a tangent here. I'll call it "Punctuation Russian Roulette".
I've often seen (usually in shops, but elsewhere,too, inverted commas stuck proudly but uselessly over merchandise, for example : "Cabbages", half-price! Also, "HOUSE FOR SALE". It makes me laugh because by surrounding them by inverted commas, the salesperson is really saying that they are imitation cabbages or houses. I don't just see this in Quebec, either, it seems to be, as I said, "Punctuation Russian Roulette".
Why? Because some people might think that if at least any old punctuation mark is slapped on, it might be the right one, and if it isn't, it still looks rather flash, doesn't it? It's declaring to the onlooker: "Look! I put up some punctuation. See? At least I know it exists." :-)))

Why is it called the grocer's apostrophe?
This intrigues me.
It seems to me, also, that many people put their apostrophes where they should, with the noticeable exception of "Its" "It's", and "who's".
Even "ain't" usually gets its apostrophe where it should fall.
Is it because we use "its" (possessive) and "it's" much more frequently than in other contractions and therefore familiarity breeds a certain contempt or nonchalance?
In AE I rearely hear "greengrocer's". It is logical, in fact, since not everything at the grocer's is green. :-)

It comes from signs in grocers' shops markets with apostrophes in plurals, I believe. "Apple's" is a commonly used example and the term caught on. ;-)

Here in the UK, I think we're still a little behind and haven't adopted the use of inverted commas to make something look better. we do overuse capital letter in the same way, though.

Just a quick comment regarding the first post here - most common NOT commonest.

I have to disagree with you. It is perfectly OK to say either 'commonest' or 'most common'. It's a two-syllable adjective that is used both ways. There is no rule whatsoever to say that the -est form cannot be used in the superlative.

If you wish to check with the Oxford English Dictiopnary, you will find that they use it happily enough and they are the number authority on such issues::

It's also found in Webster's and the American Heritage. ;-)

Fair enough - it's one of those things that grates on me! I suppose it comes from having similar mistakes of my own corrected for so long that I over-apply the rule. Thanks for the sources - time for a bit of swotting!

We all have things that grate on our ears- I can't stand the pronunciation 'proh-ject'. Next time I use it, I'll remember your preference and use the more\most form. ;-)


If you look back,you'll find that I have deferred to you and edited the offending form. ;-)

That's very kind of you, thank you.

Back to bad apostrophe usage... on my way to work this morning I saw signs advertising 'Xmas tree's'... a van offering 'bespoke book case's dining furniture' and our office canteen claims 'there are no pizza's today' and 'a selection of potato's'. And I received a memo from the payroll department addressed to 'All employee's'. They will all go down in memory alongside my local drycleaners offer of '3 suites cleaned for 10 quid'.

And of course I meant my local drycleaners' offer...

3 Suites- that's a small hotel. ;-)

Willbut, I believe that if you want to tell somebody that you are going to that place where they sell food and other stuff you should use either grocer or grocer's, but not grocers'. The plural of grocer is grocers without an apostrophe. So if going to an specific store you should say: " I am off to the grocer" or " I am off to the grocer's". When using grocer's you are simply ommiting the word "shop".
I am not a NES but I have been studying it for a really long time and I am a teacher in Brazil. Am very interested in grammar and am happy to be part of this group here. :)

Excuse me for leaving out the " I " at the beginning of my last sentence above!

He was referring to the term 'grocer's apostophe', which is used for cases where the apostrophe is used incorrectly in plurals. ;-)

Shouldn't the sentence, "Why is it that something so simple causes so many problems..." have a question mark somewhere?

Obviously he didn't know whether to use an apostrophe, so he did one
with, and one without. That way, he's made exactly one typo on the sign.
If he had guessed, he might have ended up with 2 typos. Cut your

hello I'm kimberly and I still don't know how to use a apostraphy pluraly i know every thing elese exept that little detial could you send the answer to my email adress.

There was a time when I knew how, where and when to use an apostrophe, but thanks to all the fuss over the grocers apostophe, I've lost the plot.

Punctuation are not taught in the proper manner.
People are confused about the use of proper punctuation.
Eg:It's and Its - is there a difference between the two?
Eg:Words ending in "S"
Many are nto only confused on whether or not to add the punctuation, but also confused on how to pronounce the word

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