The fiendish apostrophe quiz

Do you know how to deploy an apostrophe correctly and its importance in formal writing? Do you always proofread before publishing your blog post or sending your email newsletter? Here’s the news; big name brands don’t always follow the recognised rules for grammar. Let’s test your knowledge of well-known brand names with our little quiz; do you know which brands follow the rules of grammar and use an apostrophe and which – horrors! – don’t?

Apostrophe quiz questions

1) This supermarket and banking giant is known as

Tesco – Tescos – Tesco’s – Tescos’

2) Their major competitor brands itself

Sainsbury – Sainsbury’s – Sainsburys – Sainsburys’

3) This popular pharmacy has been a High Street favourite for years but is it

Boots – Boots’ – Boot’s – Boots’s

4) There’s often a tin under the Christmas tree, so what’s the spelling?

Cadbury’s Roses – Cadbury Roses  – Cadbury’s Rose’s – Cadbury Rose’s

5) Once known for their bangers, now more so for their ice-cream, is it

Walls’s – Walls’ – Wall’s – Walls

6) The Victorian amber beauty bar, is the soap brand called

Pear’s – Pears’ – Pears

7) The green and gold carrier bags are instantly recognisable but is the name

Harrod’s – Harrods – Harrods’

8) The famous Yorkshire tea rooms named for a mystery woman, are they

Bettys – Bettys’ – Betty’s

9) The essential accompaniment to cold meats, made in Norwich – is it

Colman’s – Coleman’s – Colmans’ – Colemans’

10) Purveyors of flours in recognisable white and blue or red striped bags, they’re called

MacDougalls – McDougall’s – McDougalls – MacDougall’s

Apostrophe Quiz Answers

1) Tesco

In common parlance, everyone does their shopping at “Tesco’s” but in reality there is no letter ‘s’, with or without an apostrophe. The Tesco name came about in 1919 when Jack Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwelland combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname. Even when the name is used as a possessive, as in “Tesco Finest” or “Tesco own brand,” no apostrophe is used.

2) Sainsbury’s

The Sainsbury family, which established the organisation now known as J Sainsbury PLC, does choose to use the apostrophe  and the store is known as “Sainsbury’s”. The first store was labelled “J. Sainsbury” and a banner read “Sainsbury’s for Quality”.

3) Boots

No apostrophe for this brand, first set up by John Boot in Nottingham in 1849 as Boots the Chemist. The company is now part of the Wallgreen empire and as such is formally known as Wallgreens Boots Alliance – with two missing apostrophes!

4) Cadbury Roses chocolates

No apostrophe for either Cadbury or Roses, whose famous strapline was “Roses grow on you!” Chocolatier Cadbury bought out a confectioners created by the Rose brothers  and the popular tins of sweets are commonly known as Roses. Occasionally, the company has risked the wrath of chocolate lovers by pruning the Roses, putting fewer in the tin, or changing the flavours, but they remain great favourites.

5) Wall’s ice cream

Another family company, Wall’s was set up by Richard Wall in 1786 and does have an apostrophe. Originally a butcher, the idea of diversifying into ice-cream came in 1913, and for many years Wall’s ice cream was principally manufactured just a few miles from my office, over in Gloucester.

6) Pears soap

The famous translucent, amber bars of soap take their name from the company founder, Andrew Pears, and so the branding is Pears Soap, with no apostrophe. However, if the company is named in the possessive, for example “Pears’ famous adverts”, an apostrophe is required.

7) Harrods

The biggest department store in Europe was started by Charles Henry Harrod. Despite this, the brand name has no apostrophe. Selling everything from pub food to gold bars, Harrods was also the victim of a major crime in 2012 when items worth £240,000 were stolen, including a single dress valued at £24,000.

8) Bettys tea rooms

Bettys is part of the Bettys and Taylors Group Ltd – famous for their Yorkshire tea rooms and scrumptious cakes. The company’s own website states that it is unclear who the founder had in mind when he chose Betty as the name of the tearooms but it offers a few suggestions. Either way, there’s no apostrophe for this brand.

9) Colman’s Mustard

Colman’s Mustard came from a mustard and flour milling business set up by Josiah Colman near Norwich in 1814. The company is said to have made its fortune from the amount of mustard that’s left behind on people’s plates! The brand name does include an apostrophe.

10) McDougalls flour

McDougall Brothers was founded by five brothers – Alexander, Isaac, Arthur, John and James Thomas – in 1864. Despite being the company of the plural McDougalls, there is no apostrophe in the brand name. McDougalls is known for creating a yeast substitute in 1864 and later and inventing self-raising flour, making them a big hit with cake lovers everywhere.


Our quiz is adapted from an idea spotted on the American brand names quiz found on The Consumerist – hat tip to them.

(Photo by Michael Henein on Unsplash)

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