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Happy Hallowe'en?
October 25, 2016

October 25, 2016


Do you have any plans for Halloween? We'll be trick-or-treating around our neighborhood. Alice hasn't decided if she's going to be a pumpkin, a pony, or Rapunzel, but those are the three top choices right now. We'll find out next week!

English Grammar Revolution

In the Grammar Time section, we'll explore the word Halloween and find out why people sometimes write it with an apostrophe. Have you ever seen it written that way?

Happy Learning,

Elizabeth O'Brien

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English Grammar Revolution

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Apostrophes & Halloween

While searching through some vintage Halloween cards, I noticed that Halloween was often written Hallowe'en.

sentence diagram

Since most people here in the United States don't spell Halloween with an apostrophe any longer, these images made me wonder what kind of history the word has.

What are apostrophes used for?

Apostrophes have three functions.

1. They form possessive nouns.

The furry ears are part of Alice's costume.

    The apostrophe in Alice's tells us that the costume belongs to her.

2. They show omission of letters or numbers.

Students shouldn't use cell phones in class.

    The apostrophe in shouldn't stands for the missing o. Shouldn't is a contraction for should not.

3. They form strange plurals.

Dot your i's and cross your t's.

So, what's with Hallowe'en?

sentence diagram

The word Halloween is actually short for the words Hallow Even.

Hallow means holy or saint, and even means eve, the night before something.

November 1st, the day after Halloween, is All Saints' Day.

Hallowe'en is a contraction for Hallow Even, the night before All Saint's Day. The apostrophe stands for the missing v.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, people have been writing this word without the apostrophe since 1773, but I've read that it's not uncommon for people using British English to still use the apostrophe today.

Bonus Lesson: Since it's Halloween and we're already talking about apostrophes, let's go over that strange apostrophe in jack-o'-lantern.

That is another case of an apostrophe used for a contraction. Jack-o'-lantern is a contraction for jack-of-the-lantern.

It's similar to o'clock. O'clock is a contraction for of the clock.

Would you like to learn more,? You'll find these pages helpful.

Are you an educator? Feel free to use this information with your students.

About Elizabeth

English Grammar Revolution

Elizabeth O'Brien is founder of, a company devoted to helping people learn and love grammar.

Through her website, books, and programs, Elizabeth shows people how to teach and learn grammar the easy way. She's on a mission to inspire and motivate people by making grammar fun and friendly.

If you liked today's issue, you'll love Elizabeth's grammar and sentence diagramming programs, which will help you learn or teach grammar through simple, step-by-step instructions and sentence diagrams.

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