What does ' mean in English reading and How to pronounce it and when to put it For example: ba'sabim(made up word)

  • Yes the apostrophe
    – bla
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 19:59
  • You might be interested in the Lexico punctuation guide and in particular their apostrophe page. Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 20:03
  • I don't mean how to use it in English, like a pronoun, etc. I mean I've seen a lot of people writing it as part of the example pronunciation of someone's last name.
    – bla
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 20:05
  • 1
    You don't pronounce it: please see the explanation in the link I posted. Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 20:19
  • 1
    The stress mark is not pronounced. It is placed (in writing) next to the syllable that receives the most stress. So the stress mark in ba'sabim shows that it is pronounced baSABim, but it isn't actually part of the word. It's like underlining something. Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 20:29

1 Answer 1


The apostrophe has 3 main uses in English grammar:

1) to form possessive nouns (eg "John's car")
2) to show the omission of letters (eg "Isn't" instead of "is not")
3) to indicate plurals of letters, numbers, and symbols (eg "dot the i's")

However, your example of a "made up word" is a little different:


Sometimes apostrophes are used as pronunciation guides to show that the syllable that follows is to be stressed or to break up syllables. This is normally used in English texts to show the pronunciation of non-English nouns. For example, the name Jacob is normally pronounced as two syllables in English; however, the original Hebrew name from which this is derived should be pronounced as three syllables. Rendering this as ya'akov breaks up two vowels that an English speaker would normally run together.

Similarly, with your example "basabim", the natural English pronunciation would probably be "bass-a-bim", but with the apostrophe included "ba'sabim" it would be "ba-sar-bim".

  • Besides thinking the question should be improved or deleted, in English we have: O'Donald, O'Shaughnessy etc. for Irish names.
    – Lambie
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 20:59
  • 1
    @Lambie that would be included in point 2 - as historically those names are "Of Donald" etc
    – Astralbee
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 21:21

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .