Language Services Staff

Choose wisely

January 2021: Apostrophe or accent

[Translate to English:] Foto: Fernando Arcos, Pexels

They certainly look alike, but they each have their own key on your keyboard and – above all – they are used in very different ways. However, because they are so visually similar, we often see that the accent is used when, in fact, an apostrophe was actually called for.

In Danish, the apostrophe (‘) is used, among other things, to form the possessive of words ending in s, z or x (Anders’), in connection with abbreviations without a full stop (pc’en) and numbers (1960’erne). The accent (´) is used to accent a syllable (én, odyssé, analysér). The accent is always optional in Danish and is used when it aids the reader.

In English, the apostrophe comes to play when forming the possessive (the car’s engine; check out a previous language tip here). It is also used when omitting one or more letters (don’t) or as quotation marks according to the British English standard (‘No Future’ was the anthem of punk). The accent is rarely used in English, but can be found in some loan words (fiancé).

Below, please find overview of the most common apostrophe/accent pitfalls:

 

Correct

Incorrect

The possessive

A dog’s purpose

A dog´s purpose

Omitting one or more letters

He would’ve come if he knew

He would´ve come if he knew

Quotation marks

‘It is well’, he said

´It is well´, he said