Apostrophes

Introduction

The apostrophe is used for two main purposes; to show possessiveness of nouns and with contractions.

Possessiveness

‘s is used to show ‘ownership’ or ‘belonging’ with singular nouns. For example:

It was Sam’s turn to go first.

He used to be one of the band’s biggest fans.

If the noun ends in s then the ‘s is still added. For example:

He could not find the harness’s tie-down point.

There are some names that do not require the additional s. For example:

She found James’ coat.

Most plural nouns do not require an additional s. Adding the apostrophe is sufficient. For example:

The ladies’ changing room was in the far corner.

The possessive form of plural nouns that do not end in s are treated like singular nouns. For example:

The women’s gym class was fully subscribed.

Children’s behaviour has changed over the years.

Periods of time can also require a possessive apostrophe. For example:

That was two weeks’ work down the drain.

He could be there at a moment’s notice.

Common errors

It is an understandable mistake to use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns. For example:

Yours, its, his, hers are correct

Your’s, it’s, his’, and her’s are incorrect

Note: it’s is a contraction of it is.

Contractions

The apostrophe is used to indicate that letters and spaces between words have been omitted to shorten words. This is more common with informal writing and representative of how we often speak. The table below shows some examples.

Contraction Full Form
aren't are not
can't cannot, can not
couldn't could not
didn't did not
hadn't had not
he'll he will, he shall
I'll I will, I shall
it's it is, it has
I've I have
she'd she would, she had
Contraction Full Form
should've should have
shouldn't should not
there's there is, there has
they're they are
wasn't was not
weren't were not
who'd who had, who would
who'll who will
wouldn't would not have
you're you are

Click here for a list of contractions.

Other Use

The pluralising of single letters might be considered unconventional grammar. Nevertheless, the apostrophe can be used with the plural of a single letter. For example:

He always remembers to cross the t’s and dot the i’s.