We use an apostrophe ( ‘ ) to indicate possession (e.g. Spot’s spots), or to substitute for one or more letters in a contraction (e.g. don’t, they’re).
What is a contraction?
Contractions are words that are created by combining two other words – we add an apostrophe to stand in for the letters we take out.
they’re (they are)
don’t (do not)
didn’t (did not)
can’t (can not)
shouldn’t (should not)
couldn’t (could not)
wouldn’t (would not)
he’s (he has or he is)
she’s (she has or she is)
I’ll (I will)
you’ll (you will)
he’ll (he will)
she’ll (she will)
we’ll (we will)
they’ll (they will)
let’s (let us)
won’t (will not)
and a fun one:
fo’c’s’le (forecastle – the room where the crew is housed in front of the mast of a sailing ship)
Note: When writing an expository essay for school, avoid using contractions. They create an informal style that is inappropriate for an academic setting.
The Rule: Possessive pronouns never use apostrophes!
Wrong: your’s, her’s, our’s, their’s
Right: yours, hers, ours, theirs, its
The Trouble with Its
Its is a possessive pronoun – think of it just as you think of yours, ours, hers and theirs – none of these have apostrophes – ever!
It’s is a contraction for “it is”
The Rule: to make a singular noun possessive, add an apostrophe and an s ( ‘s )
The Rule: to make most plural nouns possessive, just add an apostrophe ( ‘ )
my friends’ playlists (for more than one friend)
the dogs’ barking (for more than one dog)
The Beatles’ third album
the nurses’ uniforms (for more than one nurse)
horses’ hooves (for more than one horse)
Plural Possessive: The Tricky Ones
The Rule: When the plural noun you want to make possessive doesn’t already end with an s, then just add an apostrophe and an s ( ‘s )
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