Apostrophe Rules

| Grammarist

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| Grammar

The correct use of the apostrophe can be very confusing. Apostrophes are symbols or punctuation marks that are used in English grammar for three very specific reasons. The grammar and punctuation rules for using apostrophes are fairly straightforward. The three main uses for apostrophes are to form a possessive, to form a contraction and to form a plural. We will examine each of these areas of apostrophe usage, along with some examples.

1. Forming possessives

Apostrophes create possessive nouns, which are common nouns or proper nouns that indicate ownership. Singular nouns are usually made possessive by adding an apostrophe followed by an s. For example, the singular noun mother becomes a possessive noun when ‘s is added, as in mother’s. A plural noun is made possessive by adding an apostrophe, without an s. For instance, the plural word mothers becomes a possessive noun by simply adding , as in mothers’. The exception to this method of making a plural possessive is the irregular plural noun, or a plural noun that does not end with the letter s. In order to make an irregular plural noun, simply add an apostrophe followed by an s, as you would do to create the possessive form of a singular noun. An example of this is the word women, a plural noun that may be made possessive by adding ‘s, as in women’s. An interesting side issue is possessive pronouns. A possessive pronoun never needs an apostrophe. This is easy to understand when considering most singular pronouns, but the plural pronouns yours, hers, theirs and ours also never use an apostrophe. In addition, the possessive form of the singular pronoun, it, is its. The word it’s is only used as a contraction to mean it is.

2. Forming contractions

Apostrophes create contractions when two words are combined in an abbreviated word form, the apostrophe representing the omitted letters. A contraction is an abbreviation of two words. The apostrophe is used to generally indicate where the letters have been removed. Contractions may be considered informal language, and their usage is sometimes limited to more personal or friendly correspondence, though some people believe contractions are acceptable grammar in all situations. Some examples of using an apostrophe in order to form a contraction are don’t, a word that is an abbreviation for the words do not, and shouldn’t, an abbreviation for the words should not.

3. Forming plurals

Apostrophes are sometimes used incorrectly to form plural nouns. It is also incorrect to use an apostrophe when forming a plural of an acronym, though this was common in the past. Currently, there are only two instances in which an apostrophe should be used to form a plural. One is when pluralizing a specific letter. For example, there are two t’s in the word mitten. The other instance where one should use an apostrophe to make a plural is when discussing numbers. For examples, deaths always come in 3’s

Note that the the apostrophe is a quotation mark that is used in very specific instances. It should not be confused with single quotation marks, which are used to indicate a quote that is written inside of another quote. Also, do not confuse an apostrophe with a comma, which is a punctuation mark that is used to indicate a link, pause or interval. A comma is situated in the lower part of text and is part of sentence. An apostrophe is situated in the upper part of text, and is part of a word.


To remove in my text :


An elderly patient made an appointment with his cat’s vet after being unable to get a GP appointment. (The Daily Mail)

Five-star point guard Tyrese Maxey is scheduled to be in Lexington on Saturday afternoon for a recruiting visit centered on the Cats’ home game against Alabama. (The Lexington Herald Leader)

You don’t wake up one morning to find your knees don’t work and that you can’t remember where you put your spectacles. (The Sun)

Ratings were calculated by subtracting the percentage of consumers who gave 1, 2, and 3 ratings from the percentage of those awarding 6’s and 7’s. (Direct Marketing News)

3 thoughts on “Apostrophe Rules”

  1. My understanding is that the use of the apostrophe “s” in a possessive noun is a contraction of a noun and a possessive pronoun. For example, in the sentence, “That is John’s favorite book,” the word “John’s” is actually a contraction for “John, his”, so the sentence without the contraction would be, “That is John, his favorite book.” Since “its” is itself a possessive pronoun, and not a contraction of a noun and a possessive pronoun, it does not have an apostrophe. In the sentence, “The book’s cover is torn,” the word “book’s” is a contraction of “book, its”. So the sentence without the contraction is, “The book, its cover is torn.” I can’t remember where I learned this, maybe after asking a college professor the question of why the possessive word “its” does not have an apostrophe. Maybe the answer was incorrect, but it has always made sense to me.

  2. I see that the 1970s or the 1970’s can work, but how about the abc’s? How do you write this without an apostrophe? It seems we need something to separate words we read as a series of letters from a final “s”. Otherwise me saying, “There are two gs in my name” makes no sense.

  3. I think that this post gives a good overview of the functions of the apostrophe. However, it could use a little more detail, especially with verbs that end in S. Many people continue to struggle with the usage (typically the younger generation) and I think going into depth about specific instances could improve people’s understanding of the topic. Many of the other posts on this site about parts of speech and punctuation marks are very descriptive, so I think this post could use more information like the others but overall this was informative. I found the bit about pluralization to be really interesting.


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