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Apostrophes: Contractions and Possession

Updated on November 15, 2023

Signifying Ownership and Brevity #

Apostrophes serve critical functions in English writing, indicating possession and the formation of contractions. Languagehood’s guide to apostrophes will help learners use this punctuation mark accurately to denote ownership and to combine words for conciseness in communication.

Understanding Apostrophes (’) #

  • Use: To show possession, to form contractions by replacing omitted letters, and sometimes to indicate the plural of letters, numbers, or symbols.
  • Example of Possession: “That is Sarah’s book.”
  • Example of Contraction: “It’s (it is) a beautiful day.”
  • Example of Plural: “Mind your p’s and q’s.”

When to Use Apostrophes for Possession #

  • Singular Possession: Add ’s to the end of a singular noun to show that something belongs to it.
    • “The dog’s leash is on the hook.”
  • Plural Possession: For plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe.
    • “The teachers’ lounge is on the second floor.”
  • Plural Nouns Not Ending in S: Add ’s.
    • “The children’s games are in the box.”

When to Use Apostrophes for Contractions #

  • Omitting Letters: Use an apostrophe to indicate missing letters in contractions.
    • “Do not” becomes “don’t.”
  • Informal Writing: Contractions are suitable for informal writing but should be used sparingly in formal writing.

Common Mistakes to Avoid #

  • Its vs. It’s: “Its” is the possessive form of “it,” while “it’s” is the contraction for “it is” or “it has.”
    • Incorrect: “The cat licked it’s fur.”
    • Correct: “The cat licked its fur.”
  • Possessive Pronouns: Do not use apostrophes with possessive pronouns such as hers, ours, yours, theirs, whose.
    • Incorrect: “The book is your’s.”
    • Correct: “The book is yours.”
  • Unnecessary Apostrophes: Do not use apostrophes to pluralize regular nouns.
    • Incorrect: “I have two cat’s.”
    • Correct: “I have two cats.”

Examples for Practice #

  • Possessive: “Jessica’s idea was a success.”
  • Contraction: “She’ll (she will) be arriving at 3 p.m.”
  • Plural: “Please dot your i’s.”

The apostrophe is a small punctuation mark that carries significant weight in writing. By mastering the use of apostrophes for possession and contractions, learners can convey their messages with greater precision and clarity. This guide from Languagehood is intended to provide the necessary rules and examples to ensure learners are using apostrophes correctly in their English writing.

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