Use of the apostrophe

There are two proper uses for the apostrophe:

  • To indicate that letters are missing
  • To show that something is connected/belongs to something else

How to use apostrophes

Using the apostrophe when letters are missing

Use the apostrophe to show that some letters are missing from a word. Such as:

Could’ve (Could have)

I’ll ( I will)

Don’t (Do not)

In the examples above, the letters missing are straightforward – letters have been taken out and replaced with an apostrophe. However, there are times when words are shortened in an unconventional manner. For example:

Won’t (Will not)

In this example, the apostrophe is still used to indicate that letters are missing, but it has been done in an irregular way.

Traditionally, this is seen as an informal usage of the apostrophe. In formal writing, words are not usually shortened.

Using the apostrophe to show a connection

The apostrophe is often used to indicate a connection/belonging between two words. To do this, a “’s” is used. For example:

The woman’s guitar (the guitar belongs to the woman)

The website’s audience (the readers are connected to the website)

Nathan’s socks (the socks belong to Nathan)

In the cases above, the apostrophe is used before the “s”. However, there are times when the word representing the owner already ends with an “s”. When this occurs, the apostrophe is used after the “s”, and no extra “s” is added. For instance:

The rabbits’ burrows (the burrows belong to some rabbits)

The musicians’ instruments (the instruments belong to some musicians)

The footballers’ cars (the cars belong to some footballers)

There are plurals that don’t end with an “s”. For example, “sheep” and “women” refer to a lot of animals and people respectively. When this occurs, use the apostrophe with an additional “s” to indicate belonging. For example:

The sheep’s field (the field belongs to the sheep)

The women’s coats (the coats belong to the women)

It’s and Its

“It’s” and “its” are often confused. “It’s” is used to indicate a missing letter:

It’s nice in here (It is nice n here)

“Its” is used to show belonging, but for this, an apostrophe is not used.

The band writes its own songs

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