Apostrophes are used for two purposes: to combine words (elision) or for possession.

Apostrophes for combining words (elision)

Some of the more common uses are shown below – this is not an exhaustive list.

It is —–> It’s

Do not —–> Don’t

Cannot —–> Can’t

Should not —–> Shouldn’t

Should have —–> Should’ve

Could not —–> Couldn’t

Have not —–> Haven’t

We have —–> We’ve

I will —–> I’ll

I have —–> I’ve

Apostrophes for Possession

Singular rule

The apostrophe is placed after the object or person’s name if there is only one owner.

Chloe’s phone beeped.

The phone’s battery was running out.

If there is no possession, no apostrophe! DVD’s should be DVDs for example.

One of the biggest misconceptions is with it’s and its.

Here it’s means it is: “it’s finally over”.

At the end of the exam Ryan is relieved it’s finally over.

Whereas in this next sentence, the context denotes possession. The exam belongs to the class.

Last Friday, the class sat its final exam.

If the ownership of the object is unclear, look to the left of the object in the sentence.


Plural Rule

If there is more than one owner the apostrophe goes after the s.

The girls’ bags were left on the floor.

However words that are already plural follow the singular rule.

The women’s bags were left on the floor.

Examples of existing plural words

women men
people children

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