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 plus the letter "s" ('s) indicate who or what owns something. To show possession with a singular noun, add apostrophe plus s (’s).
- Jen’s dance routine mesmerized everyone in the room.
- The dog’s leash is hanging on the hook beside the door.
- Jess’s sister is also coming to the party.
Notice that singular nouns that end in s still take the apostrophe s (’s) ending to show possession.
To show possession with a plural noun that ends in s, just add an apostrophe (’). If the plural noun does not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s (’s).
- A plural noun that ends in s: The drummers’ sticks all moved in the same rhythm, like a machine.
- Plural noun that does not end in s: The people’s votes clearly showed that no one supported the management decision.
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. Many writing instructors prefer that students not use contractions for their formal essays. Part of the reason is tone, and part of the reason is that using them can make proofreading for proper verb usage more difficult.
I do not like ice cream.
I don’t like ice cream.
Notice how the words do and not have been combined to form the contraction don’t. The apostrophe shows where the "o" in not has been left out, and the two words are combined with no space.
We will see you later.
We’ll see you later.
Look at Table 12.12.1, below, for some examples of commonly used contractions.
Table 12.12.1 -- Commonly Used Contractions
|it's||it is, it has|
Be careful not to confuse it’s with its. It’s is a contraction of the words it and is. Its is 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 words "it is" in a sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, use the contraction it’s.
Table 12.12.2 -- Commonly Confused Contraction Spellings
|Commonly Confused Contraction/Possessive Spellings|
|it's (it is)||its (owned by "it")|
|who's (who is)||whose (owned by "who?")|
|there's (there is)||theirs (owned by them)|
Don't use apostrophes with decades. Just add an "s".
Incorrect: Modern rock was popular in the 1980's.
Correct: Modern rock was popular in the 1980s.
On your own sheet of paper, correct the following sentences by adding apostrophes. If the sentence is correct as it is, write OK.
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?
7. On the day of the wedding, were going to rent a limo.
8. My sisters wife will make the arrangements.
9. Shes a great party organizer.
Contributors and Attributions
CC LICENSED CONTENT, SHARED PREVIOUSLY:
- Adapted from College ESL Writers: Applied Grammar and Composing Strategies for Success. Authored by: Barbara Hall and Elizabeth Wallace. Provided by: GALILEO Open Learning Materials. License: CC BY-NC-SA (3.0): Attribution.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED CONTENT:
- When to use apostrophes. Authored by: Laura McClure. Located at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=My6oGvkHnfY. License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube License.
The page was most recently updated on June 8, 2020.