12.4 – Apostrophes

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the uses of apostrophes.
  • Correctly use apostrophes in sentences.

An apostrophe (’) is a punctuation mark that is used with a noun to show possession or to indicate where a letter has been left out to form a contraction.


An apostrophe and the letter s indicate who or what owns something. To show possession with a singular noun, add ’s.

Jen’s dance routine mesmerized everyone in the room.

The dog’s leash is hanging on the hook beside the door.

Jess’s sister is also coming to the party.

Notice that singular nouns that end in s still take the apostrophe s (’s) ending to show possession.

To show possession with a plural noun that ends in s, just add an apostrophe (’). If the plural noun does not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s (’s).

Plural noun that ends ins: The drummers sticks all moved in the same rhythm, like a machine.

Plural noun that does not end ins: The people’s votes clearly showed that no one supported the management decision.


A contraction is a word that is formed by combining two words. In a contraction, an apostrophe shows where one or more letters have been left out. Contractions are commonly used in informal writing but not in formal writing.

I do not like ice cream.

I don’t like ice cream.

Notice how the words do and not have been combined to form the contraction don’t. The apostrophe shows where the o in not has been left out.

We will see you later.

We’ll see you later.

Look at the chart for some examples of commonly used contractions.

This chart outlines common contractions and the words they combine
contraction words combined
aren’t are not
can’t cannot
doesn’t does not
don’t do not
isn’t is not
he’ll he will
I’ll I will
she’ll she will
they’ll they will
you’ll you will
it’s it is, it has
let’s let us
she’s she is, she has
there’s there is, there has
who’s who is, who has


Be careful not to confuse it’s with its. It’s is a contraction of the words it and is. Its is a possessive pronoun.

It’s cold and rainy outside. (It is cold and rainy outside.)

The cat was chasing its tail. (Shows that the tail belongs to the cat.)

When in doubt, substitute the words it is in a sentence. If sentence still makes sense, use the contraction it’s.

Exercise 1

On your own sheet of paper, correct the following sentences by adding apostrophes. If the sentence is correct as it is, write OK.

  1. “What a beautiful child! She has her mothers eyes.”
  2. My brothers wife is one of my best friends.
  3. I couldnt believe it when I found out that I got the job!
  4. My supervisors informed me that I wouldnt be able to take the days off.
  5. Each of the students responses were unique.
  6. Wont you please join me for dinner tonight?


Key Takeaways

  • Use apostrophes to show possession. Add ’s to singular nouns and plural nouns that do not end in s. Add ’ to plural nouns that end in s.
  • Use apostrophes in contractions to show where a letter or letters have been left out.

Attribution & References

Except where otherwise noted, this chapter is adapted from “3.5 Apostrophes” In Writing for Success by University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing, licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0.


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Communication Essentials for College Copyright © 2022 by Jen Booth, Emily Cramer & Amanda Quibell, Georgian College is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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