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What is Apostrophe – The Figure of speech? Definition & Examples

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What strikes your mind when you listen to the word apostrophe? Must be something like car’s or cars’, which is a punctuation mark in grammar used to portray possession or contraction of words.

For example 

  • The car’s windshield broke down during the trip. (possession)
  • He doesn’t know anything about technology. (contraction)


In literature, an apostrophe exists as a figure of speech also, which is used when a character speaks to an object, an idea, or someone who doesn’t exist to produce a dramatic effect and emphasize the thought. 

For example

  • Oh, jasmine, how sweet you smell and how bloomy you look. 

Here, the sentences depict the speaker talking to a flower as if it can hear or is human.

So, if a question pops up in your mind “Are apostrophe punctuation?

You know the answer, yes they are but exist as a literary device also.

Now, let’s see if you are pronouncing it correctly,

Here’s how it’s pronunciation goes: uh-poss-truh-fee

Another fact about apostrophes is,

It is derived from the Greek word which means “turning back” or “turning away”.

So, an apostrophe figure of speech is a literary device that is used to address someone who is not present or is not capable of responding, such as an imaginary person, something dead or absent, inanimate objects like a sun or river, a being like a god or Jesus, and an abstract idea like love or fate.

You might want to merge it with personification, an apostrophe personifies but not always. Further reading will take you in-depth into the apostrophe as a figure of speech.

Apostrophe and Personification

Though apostrophe and personification both are figures of speech and sound similar, there is a line of difference. 

If you recall the apostrophe meaning and example, you will observe that the apostrophe addresses inanimate objects and ideas as if they were alive. For example

  • Oh, God! Why did you do this to me?
  • Dear computer, surprise me with your superpower.

In both the sentences, the speaker addresses the inanimate object or an abstract idea as if they are human or exist.

On the other side of the page, personification portrays inanimate objects, an idea, or animals with human attributes. For example:

  • It was a rainy day and the moon played hide and seek with the clouds.
  • The moon smiles on a full moon day.

In both the sentences, the inanimate objects are honored with human attributes such as playing or smiling. 

Difference Between Apostrophe as a Literary Device and Apostrophe as a Punctuation Mark

When you know the difference between the two faces of apostrophes you will know the answer to “are apostrophes punctuation?”

Apostrophe as a literary device is used by a writer or speaker to speak directly to someone who is not present or cannot respond directly such as inanimate objects, ideas, etc.

An example:

  • Dear moon, please always be shiny and bright. 

While we use an apostrophe as a punctuation mark, it is either used to show possession or contraction of two words, such as I’m (I am) or don’t (do not).

An example:

  • Rony doesn’t know about his friend’s accident. 

Sometimes, apostrophe as a literary device is represented by the exclamation, such as “oh”.

Apostrophe Examples 

The examples will be depicting how the speaker is going to address inanimate objects, ideas, and imaginary people, like living things. 

  • Oh, Sunday! Why do you have to go every time?
  • Train, please move fast. I need to attend the meeting.
  • Ugh, wifi, why don’t you work when I need you the most?
  • Ugh, hands, why are you giving me so much pain?
  • River, don’t you get tired of flowing continuously?
  • Dear fate, I have my faith, you won’t let me fail.

Examples of Apostrophe in literature 

In literature, the apostrophe is used by writers in play, fiction, poetry, and prose. Some examples are:

Example #1: Macbeth (By William Shakespeare)

William Shakespeare makes use of apostrophes in his play Macbeth:

“Is this a dagger which I see before me,

The handle toward my hand?

Come, let me clutch thee!

I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.”

In this abstract, Macbeth has a strange vision of a dagger and talks to it as if it were a person.

Example #2: The Star (By Jane Taylor)

Jane Taylor uses apostrophes in the well-known poem, The Star:

“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

How I wonder what you are.

Up above the world so high,

Like a diamond in the sky.”

Everyone has grown up reciting this poem. In this nursery rhyme, a child speaks to a star. Hence, this is a classic example of apostrophes.


Just like other figures of speech, an apostrophe is used to create a dramatic effect or emphasize a thought. It is well known among storytellers to switch gears, add his or her commentary, or state feelings inspired by abstract concepts. 

Apostrophe serves to poetic imagination and emphasizes the emotional aspect of objects. 

Thus, by incorporating apostrophes in writing or speech, the idea is to try to bring a particular abstract idea or non-existent person to life, to communicate the nature of emotions in a better way. It helps the reader or audience to relate better and develop a creative perspective.

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