New Year’s vs. New Year: How To Ring In The Year With Good Grammar

As if the words to “Auld Lang Syne” weren’t difficult enough to remember, ringing in a brand-new year comes with some particularly befuddling grammar landmines.

Of course, the punctuation we use when talking about the New Year’s holiday couldn’t do us a solid and follow the same pattern as Veterans Day (note the lack of apostrophe), because … well, that’s the English language for you. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered. From appropriate apostrophes to correct capitalization, here’s what you need to know to kick off 2019 with good grammar.

When to use New Year’s

It’s that tricky apostrophe (or lack thereof) that trips up most people. As we know, apostrophes are used to show possession or take the place of omitted letters in contractions. In this case, we’re talking about the former, which means anything that will, in a sense, belong to the holiday (and not just to the year in general) gets an ‘s.

Example 1: New Year’s resolutions
Example 2
New Year’s Day
Example 3New Year’s Eve
Example 4
New Year’s party

Note that only Day and Eve are capitalized in the above examples, as they’re specific holidays.  

But to make it even more confusing, you should also retain the ‘s even when New Year’s stands alone, so long as you’re talking about the holiday. For example: “Let’s plan to get together for New Year’s.” Here, the ‘s implies the eve or day. You should, however, probably get a bit more specific with your friends lest they show up on New Year’s Eve when you’re in your pajamas and you were thinking brunch on New Year’s Day. Just saying.

When to use New Year

When the clock strikes 12, there are often a few too many Ss flying about as people wish one another well. Since you’re celebrating the specific occasion, the greeting claims uppercase status (if you were to write it), but since there’s nothing specific to the eve or the day following the greeting, you don’t add an ‘s.  

Correct: Happy New Year!

Incorrect: Happy New Year’s!

When to use new year

On the other hand, if you’re just talking about getting together in the next year or things you plan to do in the coming year, then you would use neither an apostrophe nor capitalization.

Correct: I’m going to use better grammar in the new year.

Incorrect: I’m going to use better grammar in the New Year.

When to Say “Happy New Years”

The answer here is simple: Never.

“Happy New Years” implies there are two new years for which you’re extending good wishes. Since only one year will actually be new, you should drop the S.

Correct: Happy New Year!

Incorrect: Happy New Years! 

So, as you raise a toast or make a post on social media in your pajamas, keep these rules in mind. Happy New Year, everyone!

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