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Uses of Apostrophe (’) Mark and How to Use It Correctly in a Sentence

Updated on June 16, 2019

The apostrophe mark (’) is used to:

1. Indicate omission of a letter

2. To show possession

1. Contraction

Contraction refers to omission of a letter.

An example is: She’d do whatever it takes to earn the promotion.

In the sentence above, the omitted letters are ‘woul’.

The apostrophe is normally used to show omission of either a primary or modal verb.

a) Primary verbs

They are:

  • Be Verbs: is, was, are, were, am
  • Do verbs: do, does, did
  • Have verbs: have, has, had

b) Modal verbs

They are: will, would, shall, should, can, could, may, must, might and ought to.


Contraction occurs when shortening:

a) A primary or modal verb which is followed by ‘not’

Examples: will not – won’t, shall not – shan’t, cannot – can’t

She won’t come with us.

They haven’t told us what happened.

is not = isn’t, was not = wasn’t, are not = aren’t, shall not = shan’t and so on.

b) A pronoun followed by either a primary verb or modal verb

Examples: they will = they’ll, she is = she’s, he had = he’d

They’ll not come today.

She’s is a nice lady.


2. Showing Possession

When we want to show someone or something owns or possesses something, we add an apostrophe after the concerned noun followed by an s or not.

Example: John’s car was stolen.

The girls’ bathroom is clean.

In the above sentences, the first one means the car belonging to John was stolen while the second one means the bathroom belonging to the girls is clean.

Apostrophe Rules - English Grammar Lesson to Improve Writings Skills - Punctuation Marks

The following rules will guide you on how to go about using an apostrophe to show possession.

a) If a noun is in singular and does not end in s add the (’) followed by s.

Examples: The boy’s shirt has red spots all over it.

The dog’s tail is short.

b) If the noun is in singular and ends with‘s’ add (’) followed by‘s’ or add (’) only.

Examples: The bus’s rear window is broken.

The bus’ rear window is broken.

c) If the noun is in plural and does not end with‘s’ add (’) followed by‘s’.

Example: The men’s boxers are very tight.

Women’s shoes are funnier compared to men’s shoes.

d) If the noun is in plural and ends with an‘s’ add only the (’).

Examples: The girls’ room is crowded.

Gates’ locks are tighter than doors’ locks.

e) If the pronoun is indefinite, add only the apostrophe.

Example: Someone’s book is on the teacher’s table.

It could be anybody’s pencil.


f) If proper noun is used and does not end with an‘s’ add (’) followed by‘s’.

Example: Jane’s book is dirty.

Mary’s shoe is bigger than John’s shoes.

g) If proper noun is used and it ends with‘s’ add an apostrophe followed by‘s’ or only add the apostrophe.

Example: Charles’s textbook looks funny.

Charles’ book looks funny.

h) If two or more nouns own something simultaneously, add the apostrophe to the final noun.

Example: Jane and John’s car was stolen.

The above example implies the car belonging to Jane and John was stolen.

i) If two or more nouns own something individually, use an apostrophe after each noun.

Example: Jane’s and John’s cars were stolen.

The above example means that one car belonging to Jane and another belonging to John were stolen = two cars belonging to two people were stolen.

How to Use Apostrophes

Avoid using an apostrophe with possessive pronouns.

Example: Don’t write: His’ car was broken. His is already a possessive pronoun thus there’s no need of adding the apostrophe.

In another scenario, don’t add an apostrophe with nouns that are showing possessiveness.

Example: The Smith’s or Smiths’ live her. Instead it should be: The Smiths live here.

In the above example, the Smiths indicate a family belonging to Smith.

When to use apostrophes

Don’t be confused by the following:

Yours and You’re

Yours is a possessive pronoun indicating something belongs to the second.

Example: This is your book. It is yours.

The sentence means the book belongs to you.

You’re is a contraction as the vowel letter ‘a’ has been omitted. When lengthened it reads: You are.

Example:You’re naughty’ translates to ‘You are naughty’.

You’re not sincere = You are not sincere.

Its and It’s

The first one is a possessive pronoun. It shows something belongs to a thing.

Example: Its tail is long.

The tail may belong to a dog, a cat or a leopard. The previous sentence(s) would have provided the clue as to which animal the tail belongs to.

It’s is a contraction since it is the short form of It is.

Example: It’s going to rain today = It is going to rain today.

Whose and Who’s

Whose is a possessive pronoun indicating something belongs to somebody or something while who’s is the short form of who is.

Examples: Whose book is this? = This book belongs to which person?

Who’s going to play the guitar? = Who is going to play the guitar?


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    • Ben716 profile imageAUTHOR

      Benny Alianess 

      2 months ago

      Thank you, JC Skull.

    • JC Scull profile image

      JC Scull 

      2 months ago from Gainesville, Florida

      Very good and useful article!


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