Apostrophe Rules

how to use apostrophes

Apostrophes in English serve two basic functions; they show possession, and they indicate that letters have been removed from the original words in the process of forming a contraction.

Apostrophe Rules for Possessives

When the possessor is single:
Use an apostrophe + s ('s) to show that one person/thing owns or is a member of something.

examples: Maria's ballet class, Maria's cats, Jack's car, James's dog, James's sports teams or James' dog, James' sport teams

It makes no difference whether the item owned is singular or plural. We use "Maria's" to say that the ballet class (singular) is hers and that the cats (plural) are hers. Even if the name ends in "s", it is still correct to add an apostrophe + s ('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, that means " James’ " would have the same meaning as " James’s ".

When the possessors are plural:
Use an apostrophe after the "s" at the end of a plural noun to show possession.

examples: the parents' bedroom, the girls' skirts

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

Irregular nouns
If a plural noun doesn't end in "s" (children, feet, mice, teeth, women...), add an " 's " to create the possessive form.

examples: the children's rooms, the teeth's roots

correct: three children's toys (children + apostrophe + s)
incorrect: three childrens' toys
The plural is children, not childrens.

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".

Possessive Plurals of Proper Names Ending in "s"
Things can get really confusing with the possessive plurals of proper names ending in "s", such as Hastings.
If you're the guest of the Ford family—the Fords—you're the Fords' guest (Ford + s + apostrophe). But what if it's the Hastings family? Most would call them the "Hastings." But that would refer to a family named "Hasting." If someone's name ends in s, we must add -es for the plural. The plural of Hastings is Hastingses.

To show possession, add an apostrophe.

correct: the Hastingses' dog (Hastings + es + apostrophe)
incorrect: the Hastings' dog

Compound Noun
With a singular compound noun (for example, mother-in-law), show possession with an apostrophe + s at the end of the word.

example: my mother-in-law's cat

If the compound noun (e.g., brother-in-law) is to be made plural, form the plural first (brothers-in-law), and then use the apostrophe + s.

example: my two brothers-in-law's kids

Plural Possessors- Joint or Separate Possession
If two people possess the same item, put the apostrophe + s after the second name only.

example: Jack and Monica's home

However, if one of the joint owners is written as a pronoun, use the possessive form for both.

examples: Monica's and my home, his and Monica's home

In cases of separate rather than joint possession, use the possessive form for both.

examples: Jack's and Monica's homes are both beautiful.
They don't own the homes jointly.

Jack and Monica's homes are both beautiful.
The homes belong to both of them.

Apostrophe Rule for Contractions

When you combine two words to make a contraction, you will always take out some letters. In their place, use an apostrophe. The one exception to this rule is the contraction "won’t", which is "will + not."

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

Common Contractions
are not aren't
cannot can't
could not couldn't
did not didn't
does not doesn't
had not hadn't
has not hasn't
have not haven't
he had; he would he’d
he will; he shall he'll
he is; he has he's
I had; I would I'd
I will; I shall I'll
I am I'm
I have I've
is not isn't
let us let's
might not mightn't
shall not shan't
she had; she would she'd
she is; she has she's
should not shouldn't
that is; that has that's
there is; there has there's
they had; they would they'd
they will; they shall they'll
they are they're
we had; we would we'd
we are we're
we have we've
were not weren't
what will; what shall what'll
what are what're
what is; what has what's
what have what've
where is; where has where's
who had; who would who'd
who will; who shall who'll
who are who're
who is; who has who's
who have who've
will not won't
would not wouldn't
you had; you would you'd
you will; you shall you'll
you are you're
you have you've

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