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How to Use Apostrophes

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While they might not look very important, apostrophes ( ‘ ) can really change the meaning of a phrase. To make sure that you’re using apostrophes properly, check out our explanation of how to use these little symbols.

Using an apostrophe to show possession/ownership

To show that something belongs to something (or someone) else, use an apostrophe after the noun and add the letter s:

John’s book (the book belongs to John)

The school’s courses (the courses belong to the school)

The cat’s toy (the toy belongs to the cat)

When the singular form of the word already ends in an s, some people choose to place the apostrophe at the end of the word without an extra s following it, but others like to have another s. Both styles are correct, so whichever one you pick be sure to use it consistently (that means using it in one way without switching to the other in your work).

The class’ students / The class’s students

Lucas’ mother / Lucas’s mother

The boss’ company / The boss’s company

If the word is a regular plural (i.e. a noun made plural with an s), there is no s following the apostrophe to show possession.

The girls’ hairbrushes (NOT the girls’s hairbrushes)

My friends’ favourite restaurants (NOT my friends’s favourite restaurants)

The students’ homes (NOT the students’s homes)

If the word is made plural without an s (an irregular plural), then you can use an s after the apostrophe.

The men’s beards

The mice’s fur

The people’s opinions

*an important exception to this rule is the word “it”. Since the contraction form of “It is” is “it’s”, we show possession for “it” by writing “its”.

The cat ate its food quickly.

Using an apostrophe in contractions

When using a contraction (a shorter form of two words), place the apostrophe where the letters have been removed




Try it yourself! Choose the answer that uses the apostrophe correctly.

  • ______ worry, be happy.

  • The _____ wife is nice.

  • Peter and John both bought bikes. The _____ bikes.

  • The _____ parents.