Apostrophe (') | When To Use Them - Punctuation Explained

When To Use An Apostrophe

Have you ever wondered what is (') called? It's an apostrophe (uh·paa·struh·fee), and although it is used in many Latin alphabetic languages, it is more commonly utilized in English.

In English, apostrophes are placed above most letters and look like this ('). Even though they look like singular quotation marks, they are entirely different as they work alone. Apostrophes have many different functions; let's look at them now!

when to use apostrophe example

Apostrophes; What Are They?

Apostrophes may be minor punctuation marks, but they are mighty! The primary function of an apostrophe is omitting letters in a word by way of a contraction or shortening a word.

Apostrophes For Getting Rid Of Letters

Contractions are extraordinary; they combine and shorten words by using apostrophes. Here are some examples:

  • He's on his way. (The apostrophe replaces "i" in he is)
  • She's never been to the States. (The apostrophe replaces "ha" in she has)
  • We've been thinking about your proposal and decided we aren't interested. (The apostrophe replaces "ha" in we've and "o" in are not)
  • Let's go to the mall, where do you want to go? (The apostrophe replaces "u" in let us)
  • It isn't going to be expensive. (The apostrophe replaces "o" in is not)
  • She'll arrive on Monday. (The apostrophe replaces the "wi" in she will)
  • I thought we'd be late. (The apostrophe replaces "woul" in we would)
  • What's up? (The apostrophe replaces "i" in what is up?)

When using an apostrophe in this way, it's worth noting that in formal or academic writing, it's better to write using the complete word.

Apostrophes In Slang

Apostrophes are also used to shorten words in slang, text slang, informal language, and sometimes poetry.

  • 'Tis the season of good cheer. (The apostrophe replaces "i" in it is)
  • Those shoes ain't cool. (The apostrophe replaces "o" in are not or aren't)
  • I'm gon' find it. (The apostrophe replaces "na" in gonna or going to)

Apostrophes; How Else Can I Use Them?

Apostrophes can also indicate possession and occasionally pluralize numerals and letters. Technically speaking, using apostrophes for possession is another way of reducing the number of letters. Let's look at a few examples.

Apostrophes For Possession

Apostrophes can show possession, indicating who or what has or owns something. Writers used to put an apostrophe to omit letters like "-es" when pluralizing a possessive noun; now, in most cases, they simply use "-s."

When To Use Apostrophes With Singular Nouns

When indicating possession for singular nouns, add "-s."

  • We are going to Angel's house tonight.
  • They are delivering the cake to Fran's next week.

When To Use Apostrophes With Singular Nouns Ending In "-S"

For singular nouns that end in "-s," you follow the same structure as before. However, it depends on your style guide; some guides say you can add the apostrophe and omit the extra "-s." All of the sentences below are correct.

  • The class's behavior was unacceptable.
  • The class' behavior was unacceptable.
  • James's dog doesn't like being stroked.
  • James' dog doesn't like being stroked.

When To Use Apostrophes With Singular Nouns That Don't End In "-S"

When looking at singular nouns that have possession over another noun, use an apostrophe + "-s" at the end of the noun.

Here are a few examples:

  • Danny's children are at home.
  • I think Fran's tablet is broken.
  • The women's restroom is dirty.

When To Use Apostrophes With Plural Nouns Ending In "-S"

When plural nouns end in "-s," you don't need to change the ending; simply add an apostrophe.

  • My grandparents' house is huge!
  • Her cousins' backyard is tiny.
  • Why don't we go to Mr. Smiths' shop?

The exception to this rule is for words that don't have a different plural and singular form; they are the same in both, like "clothes." If we added an apostrophe and an "-s" at the end of "clothes," it would become "clothes's," which would be pronounced as "clotheses." To make it possessive, therefore, only add an apostrophe.

  • Stans Clothes'.

When To Use Apostrophes With Plural Nouns That Don't End In "-S"

When looking at plural nouns that don't end in "-s," use the following structure:

Use an apostrophe + "-s" at the end of the noun.

Here are a few examples:

  • Danny's children are at home.
  • I think Fran's tablet is broken.
  • The women's restroom is dirty.

When To Use An Apostrophe For Two Nouns That Own Something Collectively

When two or more nouns are owned collectively, we add an apostrophe only at the end of the second noun and an "-s."

  • David and Claire's house is up for sale.
  • Sally and Jerry's dog has escaped.
  • Mom and Dad's car needs fixing.

When To Use Apostrophes With Its Vs. It's

The age-old question is it, "its,” or “it's?" Well, it really depends on what you're trying to say, and it's one thing that catches people up when writing in English.

"It's" is a contraction replacing "it is," whereas "its" indicates possession. Here are a few examples for you:

  • The bunny licks its paws. (Possessive)
  • It's been a couple of years since they hung out. (Contraction)
  • The dog eats all its food in one go. (Possessive)
  • It's super important to get 8 hours of sleep every night. (Contraction)

Apostrophe Example Sentences

So, we've learned all about when to use apostrophes; see if you can spot their function in the following sentences.

  • Anne and Daves' kitchen has been renovated.
  • Travis's teacher was concerned about his grades.
  • Travis' teacher was concerned about his grades.
  • 'fraid we can't do much about that.
  • She'll be here sooner than you think.
  • I'm lookin' for a new pair of sneakers.

And Finally...

When to use apostrophes, well, I think we've just about covered it. Check out other related content and remember, if the apostrophe isn't replacing or omitting a word, you don't need it!

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