The apostrophe (') is used in three ways:
- To show possession (ownership)
- To show plural forms
- To show where a letter or number has been omitted
This is a snap in speech, but in writing it does present difficulties. This is especially true where the three different uses of the apostrophe overlap. The worst offenders are butchers who sell “pork chop's” or “hamburger's.” It's still another reason to become a grammarian or a vegetarian.
In the meantime, here are the rules for using apostrophes.
Use an apostrophe to show possession.
- With singular nouns not ending in s, add an apostrophe and s.
- Examples: girl, girl's manuscript; student, student's ideas
- With singular nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe and s.
- Examples: Charles, Charles's book; hostess, hostess's menu
- If the new word is hard to say, leave off the s. For example: James' book, Louis' menu. You won't get arrested by the grammar police for using your brain.
- With plural nouns ending in s, add an apostrophe after the s.
- Examples: girls, girls' manuscript; students, students' ideas
- With plural nouns not ending in s, add an apostrophe and s.
- Examples: women, women's books; mice, mice's tails
Use an apostrophe to show plural forms.
- Use an apostrophe and s to show the plural of a letter.
You Could Look It Up
Contractions are two words combined. When you contract words, add an apostrophe in the space where the letters have been taken out.
Example: does + not = doesn't
- Example: Mind your p's and q's.
- Use an apostrophe and s to show the plural of a number.
- Example: Computers will be even more important in the late 1990's.
- Use an apostrophe and s to show the plural of a word referred to as a word.
- Example: There are too many distracting like's and um's in her speech.
Use an apostrophe to show where a letter or number has been omitted.
- To show that letters have been left out of contractions.
- Examples: can't, won't, I'll
- To show that numbers have been left out of a date.
- Examples: the '70s, the '90s
Danger, Will Robinson
Don't confuse contractions with possessive pronouns. Study this list.
|Contraction ||Possessive Pronoun|
|it's (it is) ||its|
|you're (you are) ||your|
|they're (they are) ||their|
|who's (who is) ||whose|
Once More, Dear Friends
Rewrite each phrase to use an apostrophe.
|Example: the mood of my sister|| my sister's mood|
|1. the talents of Matt Damon ||________________________________|
|2. the courage of the police officer ||________________________________|
|3. the liberation of women ||________________________________|
|4. the union of the steelworkers ||________________________________|
|5. the books of Laurie Rozakis ||________________________________|
|6. the wages of the waiters|| ________________________________|
Matt Damon's talents
- the police officer's courage
Laurie Rozakis' books
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Grammar and Style © 2003 by Laurie E. Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right
of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by
arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group
To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the
Penguin USA website
or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.