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English Grammar  


The correct use of apostrophes in English.

Apostrophes in English are used for possession and contraction.
They are not used to form plurals.


Apostrophes are used to indicate possession in nouns (but not in pronouns: hers, ours, theirs....).
  • The girl's bicycle.
  • The bicycle is hers (not her's).
To show possession, 's is added to a singular noun (even if the noun ends in 's').
  • John's car.
  • James's guitar.
To show possession in a plural noun, the apostrophe is added after the plural s.
  • My parents' house is near the coast.
  • Visitors are not allowed into the students' rooms.
  • Witches' hats are pointed.
If the word is plural but does not end in s, simply add an ‘s for possession.
  • The children’s playground is beside the school.

Apostrophes are used to indicate missing letters in contractions.
For example:
  • He's is a contracted form of he is.
  • It's is a contracted form of it is.
  • Its is a possessive pronoun like 'my', 'his', 'her', etc.
    • The dog was chewing its toy.
      It's (it is) its toy so that's (that is) ok.
  • Who's is a contracted form of who is.
    • Who's (who is) the owner of the red car?
    • Whose car was damaged during the storm?

Apostrophes are sometimes mistakenly used in plurals.
Remember: if there is no possession or contraction, there is no apostrophe.
The plural of most English nouns is formed by adding s or es.
  • One fork, two forks (not two fork's).
  • One inch, two inches.
  • One spoonful of cream, two spoonfuls of cream (not two spoonful's).
Exception: For the sake of clarity, an apostrophe can be used to show the plural of single letters.
  • Remember to dot your i's and cross your t's.
  • Mind your p’s and q’s!

There is no apostrophe in the plural of family names (to refer to the whole family).
An apostrophe is used only to indicate possession.
  • The Windsors are coming for dinner.
  • The blue car belongs to the Windsors. It's (it is) the Windsors' car.

To make a number plural we simply add an s. We do not add an apostrophe.
  • The airline added three 747s to their fleet.
  • The witness was a man in his 40s.
  • The Beatles became famous in the 1960s.
If the year is contracted, an apostrophe indicates the missing numbers.
  • Jazz became very popular in the '30s.
If some occurrence belongs to a specific year, an apostrophe is added:
  • 2019 was our best year.
  • 2019’s results were better than those of the previous years.

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