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Apostrophes, Possession, and Adjectives

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Hey, grammar gurus,

I'd love your take on this. An editor I know says,

"The best rule of thumb for when to use an apostrophe or not in referring to a sports team is whether the team name is being used as a noun or adjective.

"Trout reported to the Angels' rookie-league team ..."

Here, "Angels" is a noun (the rookie-league team affiliated with the Angels), so it's a possessive, thus we use the apostrophe. Usually the team name is preceded by "the" or another article in these cases.

"Angels slugger Mike Trout hit three home runs ..."

Here, "Angels" is an adjective helping modify "slugger" so it does not take an apostrophe. It would, however, if the sentence were, "The Angels' slugger, Mike Trout, hit three home runs ..."

It's a pretty fine line and I've seen arguments made both ways. In general, that's how it's done. Stick with the rule of thumb about "the" preceding the word and you'll be right 95% of the time."

Then there's this from http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/apostro.asp:

"Rule 10. Beware of false possessives, which often occur with nouns ending in s. Don't add apostrophes to noun-derived adjectives ending in s. Close analysis is the best guide.

Incorrect: We enjoyed the New Orleans' cuisine.

In the preceding sentence, the word the makes no sense unless New Orleans is being used as an adjective to describe cuisine. In English, nouns frequently become adjectives. Adjectives rarely if ever take apostrophes.

Incorrect: I like that Beatles' song.
Correct: I like that Beatles song.

Again, Beatles is an adjective, modifying song.

Incorrect: He's a United States' citizen.
Correct: He's a United States citizen."

Thoughts? 

Jody
#1 - March 09, 2016, 02:10 PM
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In your example:

Angels slugger Mike Trout hit three home runs.

I wouldn't use the apostrophe b/c both words, Angels and slugger, are being used together like a title for Mike. I think you would capitalize both.

Angels Slugger Mike Trout hit three home runs.

But, if you set Mike off with commas, then you would use the apostrophe.

Angels' slugger, Mike Trout, hit three home runs.

I don't think the "the" is why you'd decide not to use the apostrophe. It's because the slugger belongs to the Angels. And another thing, I've read you should use an apostrophe s even if the word ends with s. 

Angels's slugger, Mike Trout, hit three home runs.

Gah! I would never!

All this to say, I have no idea and generally get so confused that I will usually rewrite the sentence so as to avoid the conundrum.

Mike Trout, slugger for the Angels, hit three home runs.
#2 - March 09, 2016, 07:36 PM
« Last Edit: March 09, 2016, 07:38 PM by Dionna »

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I'm with the editor on all of your examples,  Jody.  But I wouldn't capitalize "slugger" as Dionna suggested.
#3 - March 09, 2016, 08:00 PM
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Thanks, Dionna and Marissa.

Marissa, I'm mostly with the editor, too. But then the other example I noted confuses me, because it seems to contradict the editor. Isn't "We enjoyed the New Orleans' cuisine" the same as "...reported to the Angels' rookie-league team?" Yet, one says use the apostrophe and one says don't. Or am I missing something?
#4 - March 10, 2016, 04:51 AM
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I think in the first example New Orleans is an adjective, but in the second Angels is being used as a possessive (the rookie team belongs to the Angels organization).

Try this in the first: "We enjoyed the New England cuisine." You wouldn't want to add an s-apostrophe. It seems strange because New Orleans has that s, which makes you want to add an apostrophe.

When I'm confused, I usually just try substituting another non-s word.
#5 - March 10, 2016, 04:58 AM

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I agreed at first, but then I thought about the first example again. In "Angels slugger Mike Trout hit three home runs," couldn't "Angels" be an adjective and "slugger" a noun--i.e., "Angels" is describing the kind of slugger Mike is. So then it wouldn't use an apostrophe, right?

What an invigorating question to start the day with! It's so good to know someone else out there cares about grammar. This morning on the dental forms I was filling out, it said, "Have you ever had difficult extraction's in the past?"  :help2
#6 - March 10, 2016, 05:59 AM
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 :lol5, Sara! Let's hope their expertise in dental care is better than their expertise in punctuation.

That's a good point, Jenna, about New England cuisine. The s sometimes confuses things. And I'm with you and others about rewording.

I'm usually solid on my grammar and punctuation, but this issue has recently come up, and it's less clear to me, because often a possessive noun requiring an apostrophe (the Angels' slugger) and an adjective describing a noun (Angels slugger Mike Trout) seem so much alike. Couldn't one add, perhaps incorrectly, an apostrophe to the last example (Angels' slugger Mike Trout), after all he's the slugger of the Angels?

#7 - March 10, 2016, 06:52 AM
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This is so interesting. Mike Trout is the Angels' slugger.
Mike Trout is the team's slugger. (Yep, they own him.)

Angels slugger Mike Trout.
Team slugger Mike Trout. (Nope, they don't own him. Team slugger is a compound adjective describing him.)

Substituting words without the s is very helpful. (Btw, he slugs for them, not of them.)
#8 - March 14, 2016, 07:49 AM
« Last Edit: March 21, 2016, 06:54 AM by Debbie Vilardi »

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You're right, Debbie. It does help to substitute a non-s-ending word in these cases, as Jenna suggested earlier.
#9 - March 14, 2016, 08:15 AM
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This is so interesting. Mike Trout is the Angel's slugger.
Mike Trout is the team's slugger. (Yep, they own him.)

Angels slugger Mike Trout.
Team slugger Mike Trout. (Nope, they don't own him. Team slugger is a compound adjective describing him.)

Substituting words without the s is very helpful. (Btw, he slugs for them, not of them.)

And he doesn't slug angels.  Or Angels. 
He is the slugger who belongs to the Angels team, therefore he is the "Angels slugger, as opposed to the Angels pitcher", or the "Angels' slugger, whom they just traded in to a new contract".
#10 - March 14, 2016, 11:41 AM
« Last Edit: March 14, 2016, 01:03 PM by EricJ »
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Hmm, this discussion makes me think two phrases I use quite often shouldn't have apostrophes:

Kids' magazines--shouldn't this be "kids magazines," since "kids" is used as an adjective and not a possessive?

And what about "children's writing"?
#11 - March 14, 2016, 01:33 PM
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Hmm, this discussion makes me think two phrases I use quite often shouldn't have apostrophes:

Kids' magazines--shouldn't this be "kids magazines," since "kids" is used as an adjective and not a possessive?

And what about "children's writing"?

There's no such word as Childrens, so "Children's writing" is correct.

And "Kids' magazines" would have the possessive to say that the magazines are FOR kids to own, rather than parenting magazines ABOUT kids.
#12 - March 14, 2016, 01:39 PM
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Excellent post by grammar pro, Patricia O'Connor, about singular nouns that end with s getting a second s with apostrophe..so.... Angels's....???

http://www.grammarphobia.com/blog/2011/11/times.html
#13 - March 14, 2016, 05:45 PM

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Thanks for pointing out my typo Eric. Of all the places not to proofread, I picked this one.

It could be Angels's slugger, but I don't like how the double s feels on the tongue and many won't say it that way. Team is singular after all.
#14 - March 21, 2016, 06:56 AM

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