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Can I say something like,

The movie became famous in the 2015s

I want to use it as an approximation; it's not really 2015 but somewhere around that period.

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    No, you can't. There was only one 2015. The only way to add an s is after an apostrophe. – Ronald Sole Aug 12 at 22:41
  • @RonaldSole That depends on context. There might have been only one 2015, but there were 365 days in 2015. It would be uncommon usage, but not entirely wrong in the right context. It certainly wouldn't work in this particular sentence, but it could be arguably correct in something like the following: The 2015s were crazy months. – Jason Bassford Aug 12 at 23:37
  • @RonaldSole Also, the only way to add an S is not after an apostrophe. That's a possessive. – Jason Bassford Aug 12 at 23:37
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    @JasonBassford I think he meant something like "2015's best movie" - the only way an 's' can appear after the word. – Jack O'Flaherty Aug 13 at 0:07
  • @JackO'Flaherty indeed I did. – Ronald Sole Aug 13 at 13:40
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No, you can’t say “the 2015s”.

You could instead say “around 2015”.

Ronald Sole’s comment is talking about the unrelated “possessive” or “genitive” construction, which coincidentally also involves the letter S. “2015’s ___” roughly equivalent to “the __ of 2015” (e.g. “this was 2015’s most memorable movie”). It isn’t that common to use the possessive/genitive -’s construction with a year, but it is possible.

The plural “the 1960s” construction can be written with or without an apostrophe. Many current style guides recommend not using an apostrophe, but the apostrophe convention with plural years written as numerals (like “90’s” or “1990’s”) has a significant history of usage and so should not be treated as a “mistake” along the lines of writing “blueberry’s” instead of “blueberries” for the plural of “blueberry”. Unlike with blueberry, there is not a single universally accepted standard for writing the plurals of years. See Sven Yargs' answer to the ELU question Is an apostrophe with a decade (e.g. 1920’s) generally considered “incorrect”?

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  • I would also recommend mentioning the apostrophe before the decade, as in ‘90s, to notate dropping the first two digits of the years. Furthermore this apostrophe is sometimes opening (‘90s) or closing (’90s). – gen-ℤ ready to perish Aug 13 at 22:50
  • @gen-zreadytoperish: I thought about mentioning it, but didn't get around to it yet (and it seems fairly tangential, so I'm not entirely sure about including it). Do people really ever intentionally write "‘90s" instead of "’90s"? I would interpret that as an error caused when a computer program that attempts to choose between ‘ and ’ mistakenly assumes that the writer is trying to use an opening quotation mark rather than a word-initial apostrophe – sumelic Aug 14 at 1:46
  • I only ever write ‘90s with an opening mark. I read all of It by Stephen King and had to endure his ’XXs convention with an opening apostrophe (same for other contractions), except it’s much more pronounced in a serif font. It made my skin crawl. – gen-ℤ ready to perish Aug 14 at 2:42
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Absolutely not. The phrase "the nineties" refers to a number of years without specifying exactly which ones. It clearly refers, however, to more than one of up to ten years and so is a plural concept, which justifies the terminal "s." The year 2015 is not a plural concept. The thought you mean to convey can be expressed as

approximately during 2015

around 2015

about 2015

during 2015 or thereabouts

There are probably others that do not spring to my befuddled mind right away.

Furthermore, as R. Sole pointed out, if you want to use numerals to express a vague collection of years, the standard way to do so is to use an apostrophe as in

the 90's

So your usage is wrong as is your punctuation.

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  • Thank you! I made a mistake in my question as well. So I assume, in the 2015's is not correct too, right? – Luke Vo Aug 12 at 23:14
  • 2015's would refer to something that 2015 possesses or has. So no, in your case. If you found this answer above me helpful, I encourage you to mark it as the best answer. And if you found this comment helpful, upvote it. – azh412 Aug 12 at 23:24
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    @LukeVo Note that the 90's used in this answer is incorrect punctuation. As with the other comment here, that's a possessive. If the apostrophe is being used to shorten the 1990s it has to be the '90s, with the apostrophe before the number, not after it—and taking the place of the missing 19. – Jason Bassford Aug 12 at 23:32
  • @LukeVo You are correct that "in the 2015's" is not correct either. The punctuation joining a grammatical particle to a numeral is correct, but the meaning is not. The year 2015 is a single year, and it does not deserve to be made plural. What you mean to express is "during 2015 or a year close to it." The concept is singular, but approximate. – Jeff Morrow Aug 12 at 23:33
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    Also circa 2015 (academic) and 2015-ish (slang). – StephenS Aug 13 at 2:18
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The proper way to say it is circa 2015.

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