Koffie’s or Koffies: apostrophe confusion in Dutch


I came across an interesting use of an apostrophe with a plural in Dutch on my way to Leiden, and wondered what caused this misuse of the apostrophe in the image above. According to the Van Dale dictionary the correct plural of koffie is koffies, not koffie’s.

I came up with some possible theories to account for this misuse:

1. Generalising the Dutch apostrophe rule:

English loanwords that end in –y get an apostrophe plus –s in Dutch, unless there is a vowel before the –y, according to Genootschap Onze Taal. The coffee shop owner may have applied the same rule, adding -‘s although the Dutch word does not end in –y (cf. Dutch babybaby’s).

Another possible explanation could be that the apostrophe is used to avoid confusion in pronunciation. However, there is no need for an apostrophe since there is no such confusion while saying koffies out loud because there is just one way of pronouncing –ie.

2. English influence on Dutch:

English uses the apostrophe quite often before the –s, but never with plurals. The use of an apostrophe therefore has a clear purpose, since -‘s (or only the apostrophe in other cases) usually denotes possession. Sometimes the apostrophe is used to refer to something without a noun following, as in my father’s. This use leaves out the noun place. But this does not apply to koffie in the example above, since it is meant to indicate the plural.

To sum up, the misuse of the apostrophe in koffie’s can be accounted for in various ways. Could it indeed be influenced by English usage or is it due to generalising the Dutch apostrophe rules? I am curious to see what more the apostrophe future will bring us!

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