Common Uses of Apostrophes

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What are apostrophes?

Apostrophes are most commonly used to show possession when using nouns and pronouns. They are also used to note omissions, as is the case with contractions; however, you should always avoid using contractions when writing for Write.com.

Apostrophes and showing possession

When you are showing possession with an apostrophe, the placement of the apostrophe depends on whether the possession is singular or plural. When showing singular possession, such as a hat that belongs to Bob, an apostrophe is added before the “s” (Bob’s hat). When a singular noun that is a name ends with an “s,” the preferred method is to add the apostrophe and the “s” (Texas’s heat).

Conversely, the plural of a name does not require an apostrophe if no possession is shown (The Kennedys are a famous family). Plural possession on the other hand, is shown by first adding the “s,” and then adding the apostrophe (boys’ shoes). In addition, if you are showing possession for two people who possess the same thing, only the second name takes the apostrophe (Sammie and Suzanne’s office). Lastly, numbers and capital letters, such as ABCs, never require an apostrophe.

CORRECT: The 1970s were a time of free love and bell bottoms.

INCORRECT: The 1950’s is where the traditional family was the norm.

Apostrophes and compound nouns

Compound nouns that are singular, such as mother-in-law, take the possessive form by placing an apostrophe and an “s” at the end of the whole noun (mother-in-law’s). It is important to note, though, that when the compound noun is in its plural form, the noun is made plural first (mothers-in-law) before adding the apostrophe and the “s” at the end.

Correct: Her daughters-in-law’s weddings were all beautiful.

INCORRECT: Her daughter’s-in-laws weddings were all beautiful.

Apostrophes and pronouns

Pronouns create an interesting difference with respect to apostrophe usage. When using possessive pronouns, such as his, hers, theirs, yours or whose, you should never use an apostrophe to show possession. “Its” when used to show possession for the noun this singular pronoun refers to also does not dictate the use of an apostrophe. However, when the word is used to replace two other words, it is a contraction that requires an apostrophe (it’s about time = it is about time).