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How to use and apostrophe

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How to use and apostrophe
November 14, 2018 1st Anniversary Wishes 2 comments

Learning how to use apostrophes correctly in English is important and hence this a topic in English worth looking at!.

How To Use An Apostrophe (’)

Are you uncertain about when to use an apostrophe? Many people have difficulty with this punctuation mark. The best way to get apostrophes right is to understand when and why they are used. There are two main cases – click on the links below to find straightforward guidance:

People are often unsure about whether they should use its (without an apostrophe) or its (with an apostrophe). For information about this, you can go straight to the section it's or its?

Apostrophes showing possession

You use an apostrophe to show that a thing or person belongs or relates to someone or something: instead of saying the party of Ben or the weather of yesterday, you can write Ben’s party and yesterday’s weather.

Here are the main guidelines for using apostrophes to show possession:

Singular nouns and most personal names

With a singular noun or most personal names: add an apostrophe plus s:

We met at Ben’s party.

The dog’s tail wagged rapidly.

Yesterday’s weather was dreadful.

Personal names that end in –s

With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud:

He joined Charles’s army in 1642.

Dickens's novels provide a wonderful insight into Victorian England.

Thomas's brother was injured in the accident.

Note that there are some exceptions to this rule, especially in names of places or organizations, for example:

St Thomas’ Hospital

If you aren’t sure about how to spell a name, look it up in an official place such as the organization’s website.

With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s:

The court dismissed Bridges' appeal.

Connors' finest performance was in 1991.

Plural nouns that end in –s

With a plural noun that already ends in -s: add an apostrophe after the s:

The mansion was converted into a girls’ school.

The work is due to start in two weeks’ time.

My duties included cleaning out the horses’ stables.

Plural nouns that do not end in -s

With a plural noun that doesn’t end in –s: add an apostrophe plus s:

The children’s father came round to see me.

He employs 14 people at his men’s clothing store.

The only cases in which you do not need an apostrophe to show belonging is in the group of words called possessive pronouns - these are the words his, hers, ours, yours, theirs (meaning ‘belonging to him, her, us, you, or them’) - and with the possessive determiners. These are the words his, hers, its, our, your, their (meaning 'belonging to or associated with him, her, it, us, you, or them'). See also it's or its?

Apostrophes showing omission

An apostrophe can be used to show that letters or numbers have been omitted. Here are some examples of apostrophes that indicate missing letters:

I’m - short for I am

he’ll - short for he will

she’d– short for she hador she would

pick n’ mix - short for pick and mix

it’s hot - short for it is hot

didn’t - short for did not

It also shows that numbers have been omitted, especially in dates, e.g. the Berlin Wall came down in the autumn of ’89 (short for 1989).

It’s or its?

These two words can cause a lot of confusion: many people are uncertain about whether or not to use an apostrophe. These are the rules to remember:

  • its (without an apostrophe) means ‘belonging to it’:

The dog wagged its tail.

Each case is judged on its own merits.

  • it’s (with an apostrophe) means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’:

It’s been a long day.

It’s cold outside.

It’s a comfortable car and it’s got some great gadgets.

Apostrophes and plural forms

The general rule is that you should not use an apostrophe to form the plurals of nouns, abbreviations, or dates made up of numbers: just add -s (or -es, if the noun in question forms its plural with -es). For example:

(e.g. The cost of the trip is 570 euros.)
(e.g. Traditional Italian pizzas are thin and crisp.)
(e.g. She buys big bags of organic apples and carrots.)
(e.g. Local MPs are divided on this issue.)
(e.g. The situation was different in the 1990s.)

It's very important to remember this grammatical rule.

There are one or two cases in which it is acceptable to use an apostrophe to form a plural, purely for the sake of clarity:

  • you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single letters:

I've dotted the i's and crossed the t's.

Find all the p's in appear.

  • you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single numbers:

Find all the number 7’s.

These are the only cases in which it is generally considered acceptable to use an apostrophe to form plurals: remember that an apostrophe should never be used to form the plural of ordinary nouns, names, abbreviations, or numerical dates.

You can read more rules and guidelines about apostrophes on the Oxford Dictionaries blog. Here you will find further examples of correct and incorrect use of apostrophes.


Back to punctuation.

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Thanks to Library Lady Jane for all her help in writing these grammar guides over the years. If you would like a regular serving of grammar-related.

How to use the apostrophe

how to use and apostrophe

We use an apostrophe [ ’] to create possessive forms, contractions, and some plurals (see below). The apostrophe shows where a letter or letters have been left out of a contracted verb:

Whether or not contractions are appropriate in academic prose is a matter of personal taste and debate. See the section on Tone for a discussion of contractions. Also, ask your instructor before using contractions in a paper that will be graded.

This Guide has an entire section devoted to a description of possessives. You can click HERE to go to that section (and accompanying quizzes) or read this summary.

In possessives, the placement of the apostrophe depends on whether the noun that shows possession is singular or plural. Generally, if the noun is singular, the apostrophe goes before the s. The witch's broom. If the noun is plural, the apostrophe goes after the s: The witches' brooms. However, if the word is pluralized without an s, the apostrophe comes before the s: He entered the men's room with an armload of children's clothing. If you create a possessive with a phrase like of the witches, you will use no apostrophe: the brooms of the witches.

Remember that it's means it is or it has. Confusing it's with its, the possessive of it, is perhaps the most common error in writing. Remember, too, that there is no appropriate contraction for "there are." Don't confuse "they're," which means "they are" with "there are" (which can sound like "ther're," [or some such set of rumbling r's] in casual speech).

An apostrophe is also used to form some plurals, especially the plural of letters and digits. Raoul got four A's last term and his sister got four 6's in the ice-skating competition. This is particularly useful when the letter being pluralized is in the lower case: "minding one's p's and q's" or "Don't forget to dot your i's." (In a context in which the plural is clear, apostrophes after upper-case letters are not necessary: "He got four As, two Bs, and three Cs.") It is no longer considered necessary or even correct to create the plural of years or decades or abbreviations with an apostrophe:

  • He wrote several novels during the 1930s.
  • There are fifteen PhDs on our faculty.
  • My sister and I have identical IQs.

(If you wrote Ph.D. with periods, you would add an apostrophe before the pluralizing "s": Ph.D.'s) If the abbreviation or acronym ends in "S," it's a good idea to separate this final "S" from the pluralizing "s" with an apostrophe: SOS's


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how to use and apostrophe

Apostrophes at Work

You'll notice apostrophes aren't necessary when forming plural nouns or possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, their, our, its).

In the following story, apostrophes are being used for multiple purposes. Let's take a look at where they are and how they're functioning:

Robert and Lisa Smith have two beautiful children. Amy is nine and Ross is seven. The Smiths' house has two floors. The children's rooms are upstairs, and the parents' bedroom is downstairs. Lisa's room is always clean while Ross's room is always messy. The Smiths' lives are very busy this week. Ross's sports teams all have games. Amy's ballet class has a recital and Robert's car is in the shop. So, the Joneses are trying to get everything done with only Lisa's car. Today, they've been to school, practice, rehearsal, the grocery store, and the veterinarian's office. Mind you, they aren't finished yet. They'll be busy until late tonight and, tomorrow, they'll do it all again.

Apostrophe Rules for Possessives

It would be difficult for possessives to exist without apostrophes. Let's take a look at three different ways apostrophes dance around possessive words.

1. Use an apostrophe + S ('s) to show that one person/thing owns or is a member of something.

  • Amy's ballet class, Lisa's car, Robert's car, Ross's room, Ross's sports teams

Yes, even if the name ends in "s," it's still correct to add another "'s" to create the possessive form. It is also acceptable to add only an apostrophe to the end of singular nouns that end in "s" to make them possessive. In this case, you can show possession for Ross either way:

It makes no difference whether the item owned is singular or plural. We use "Ross's" to say that the room (singular) is his and that the sports teams (plural) are his.

2. Use an apostrophe after the "s" at the end of a plural noun to show possession.

  • The parents' bedroom, the Smiths' lives

It is not necessary to add another "s" to the end of a possessive plural noun.

3. If a plural noun doesn't end in "s," add an apostrophe + "s" to create the possessive form.

Remember, a possessive noun needs an apostrophe and an "s" at the end. If there's already an "s" there, you can just add the apostrophe. If there's no "s," you have to add both - first the apostrophe, and then the "s."

Apostrophe Rule for Contractions

There's really only one rule for apostrophes and contractions, aside from careful placement:

1. When you combine two words to make a contraction, you will always take out some letters. In their place, use an apostrophe.

  • they + have = they've; are + not = aren't; they + will = they'll

Imagine you're on a submarine that's diving deep into the ocean. As you dive deeper and deeper, the water pressure becomes greater. If you go too deep, the water will squeeze the submarine so hard it'll begin to leak, and you'll need to put something into the hole to stop the leak.

The same thing happens when you squeeze two words together. Something pops out. And, wherever it comes out, you must place an apostrophe to plug the hole. The one exception to this rule is the contraction "won't," which is "will + not."

Apostrophe Rules Summary

English apostrophe rules are not difficult to master. Just remember that all possessives need an apostrophe and an "s" at the end. If the word already has an "s," it only needs an apostrophe. If the word does not already have an "s," it needs the apostrophe followed by "s."

YourDictionary definition and usage example. Copyright © 2018 by LoveToKnow Corp

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MLA Style

"Apostrophe Rules." YourDictionary. LoveToKnow. grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/apostrophe-rules.html.

APA Style

Apostrophe Rules. (n.d.). In YourDictionary. Retrieved from https://grammar.yourdictionary.com/punctuation/apostrophe-rules.html

As for contractions, the only apostrophe rule you need to remember is the same one you learned as a teenager. If you snuck out of the house at night, you had to put pillows under the sheets to make it look like you were still sleeping. In other words, if you take something out, replace it with something else. Then squish everything together so it looks like one body.

Now, are you ready for some fun? Check out When NOT to Use an Apostrophe!

We use apostrophes to show possession, form contractions, and make odd plurals. These are the rules to find and fix apostrophe errors.


how to use and apostrophe

Today’s article looks at that forgotten mark, the apostrophe. We’ll look at how the apostrophe is used (hint: you can see two ways in this paragraph!), with a focus on research manuscripts.

Despite their frequent use in everyday writing, apostrophes are very rare in scientific writing. This scarcity is largely a product of the desire to maintain a formal tone when reporting research, as several common uses for the apostrophe are generally considered informal. When these constructs get omitted from research manuscripts, apostrophes disappear with them. Here are several uses for apostrophes in English writing, with examples of how they’re used in scientific papers (if at all):


Contractions are shortened versions of longer words or phrases. An apostrophe is used in place of the missing characters. Some examples from this post include we’ll (short for we will) and they’re (they are). Many contractions are unique, but terms such as what’s can mean either what is or what has (e.g., “What’s the capital of New Zealand?” or “What’s the cat been eating today?”). Because contractions are highly reminiscent of informal speech, contractions are almost completely avoided in scientific text.

Possessive forms

The apostrophe (along with the letter s) can also be used to create possessive forms in English (as in “Jack’s samples are in the freezer.”). Some believe that the use of the possessive form ascribes human characteristics to inanimate objects. Whether or not you agree, these forms are rarely seen in academic writing (like contractions). However, a handful of exceptions exist; these possessive forms are frequently accepted by convention:

  • Eponyms such as Student's t-test or Parkinson's disease
  • The phrase according to the manufacturer's instructions

Unusual plural forms

Finally, the apostrophe can be used in rare cases to create a plural form, particularly when using an s alone would create confusion. These strange plural forms are uncommon, but if they arise in a scientific manuscript, it is appropriate to use the apostrophe:

  • Plurals of individual lowercase letters: The writing sample contained 269 a's and 934 e's.
  • Plurals of words (when referring to the use of word itself): The number of maybe's from the survey takers was highest for question 5.
  • Please note that apostrophes are not recommended when naming a decade or pluralizing a number (e.g., write 1990s, not 1990's).

These are not the only uses for apostrophes, but they are some of the most common. If you have questions about your writing, send us an email. Best wishes!

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how to use and apostrophe
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