There for Their, and Smith’s for Smiths

I keep chalking up abuses of the English language for my hoped-for ultimate word on correct English usage in my book Fast Food English.

In my English composition class this past week, I sat through (maybe I should say thru, huh?) endless presentations where, without exception, the presenters used there for the possessive their.

In general, native English users in the United States have a hard time with the possessive, often using it’s for its–and the list goes on.  (Clue: possessive pronouns never–should be easy to remember–use apostrophes.)

I owe this one to Copyblogger, who runs a blog on copyediting; in his latest e-mailing, he pointed out that people nowadays (or should I say, like my students, now days) get all confused over the apostrophe and use it to form plurals.  He used the example of the erroneous boy’s for boys.

However, I’ve got an example closer to home.  Each morning when I drive down my street, I see a see in front of someone’s home that says, "The Smith’s" (name changed to protect the guilty). 

Now, even if you put a noun behind this construction to make it a true possessive, such as The Smith’s House, it would still be incorrect because Smith is not plural.  Smiths is, just as Joneses is for Jones.  Simple pluralization rules apply, which I’ll broach one day in my Building Blocks series.

For now, I’ll just point out the abuse.

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