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9.5: Apostrophes

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  • An apostrophe (’) is a punctuation mark that is used with a noun to show possession or to indicate where a letter has been left out to form a contraction.


    An apostrophe and the lettersindicate who or what owns something. To show possession with a singular noun, add’s.

    Jen’sdance routine mesmerized everyone in the room.

    The dog’sleash is hanging on the hook beside the door.

    Jess’ssister is also coming to the party.

    Notice that singular nouns that end insstill take the apostrophes(’s) ending to show possession.

    To show possession with a plural noun that ends ins, just add an apostrophe (’). If the plural noun does not end ins, add an apostrophe and ans(’s).

    Plural noun that ends ins: The drummers’ sticks all moved in the same rhythm, like a machine.

    Plural noun that does not end ins: The people’s votes clearly showed that no one supported the management decision.


    Do not use apostrophes for plurals. It is a common mistake and easy to find in signs and even newspapers.

    Correct: The 1980s were when neon colors came into their own in the world of fashion.

    Incorrect: The 1980’s were when neon color’s came into their own in the world of fashion.


    A contraction is a word that is formed by combining two words. In a contraction, an apostrophe shows where one or more letters have been left out. Contractions are commonly used in informal writing but not in formal writing.

    I do not like ice cream.

    Idon’tlike ice cream.

    Notice how the wordsdoandnothave been combined to form the contractiondon’t. The apostrophe shows where theoinnothas been left out.

    We will see you later.

    We’llsee you later.

    Look at the chart for some examples of commonly used contractions.

    Commonly Used Contractions

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\)Commonly Used Contractions


    Be careful not to confuseit’swithits.It’sis a contraction of the wordsitandis.Itsis a possessive pronoun.

    It’s cold and rainy outside. (It is cold and rainy outside.)

    The cat was chasing its tail. (Shows that the tail belongs to the cat.)

    When in doubt, substitute the wordsit isin a sentence. If sentence still makes sense, use the contractionit’s.

    Exercise 10

    On your own sheet of paper, correct the following sentences by adding apostrophes. If the sentence is correct as it is, writeOK.

    1. “What a beautiful child! She has her mothers eyes.”

    2. My brothers wife is one of my best friends.

    3. I couldnt believe it when I found out that I got the job!

    4. My supervisors informed me that I wouldnt be able to take the days off.

    5. Each of the students responses were unique.

    6. Wont you please join me for dinner tonight?

    Key Takeaways

    • Use apostrophes to show possession. Add’sto singular nouns and plural nouns that do not end ins. Addto plural nouns that end ins.
    • Use apostrophes in contractions to show where a letter or letters have been left out.
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