About Apostrophes

Apostrophes are used in contractions (can’t, didn’t, won’t) and in “of” ideas:  Mary’s car (car of Mary), a suspect’s weapon (weapon of a suspect).

Apostrophes DO NOT mean “more than one.”

Note these examples:

The Browns live on the next block.

The Browns’ house has a swimming pool.   (house of the Browns)

Karen’s handcuffs are ready.   (handcuffs of Karen)

There were two Karens in my class at the academy.

Apostrophes are always placed after the last letter of a word or name. If you know how to spell the word or name, you know where the apostrophe goes:

John  John’s car is in the garage.

Louis   Louis‘ car is in the garage.

Mr. Brown  Mr. Brown’s car is in the garage.

The Browns   The Browns’ car was impounded.

baby  The baby’s injuries need attention.

babies    The babies‘ mothers told us what happened.

family   The family’s celebration was interrupted by a loud bang.

families    Both families‘ houses were burglarized.

woman   I heard a woman’s voice on the phone, but I couldn’t identify it.

women   We’ll be discussing women’s safety issues at the conference.

boy     A boy’s bicycle is parked by her back door.

boys   I checked both boys‘ stories, and there were several discrepancies.

Sometimes apostrophes can be used in time expressions:

a day’s pay (pay of a day)

two days‘ absence (absence of two days)

a good night’s sleep   (sleep of a good night)

three years’ experience  (experience of three years)

a week’s vacation   (vacation of a week)

If you don’t have an “of” expression or a contraction, DON’T use an apostrophe:

The Johnsons called 911.

The Johnsons‘ house is on the northwest corner.

The family’s car is parked around the corner.

Several families decided to start a block association.

Apostrophes represent omitted letters in contractions. Be careful with spelling:

I am getting ready for the meeting with the mayor.

I’m getting ready for the meeting with the mayor.

Joe is going with me.

Joe’s going with me.

Possessive pronouns (like his) don’t get apostrophes:

That statute book is hers, and this one is mine.

Florida is seeing a decline in its population.

The institution doubled its size last year.

Is that report yours?

It’s has only one meaning: A contraction of it is:

I won’t need a ride home unless it’s raining.

It’s easier to write good reports now that we all have laptops.

When its is possessive (like his), omit the apostrophe:

The suspect’s shirt was missing two of its buttons.

Jeremy lost two of his teeth in the fight.

Apostrophes aren’t difficult to learn! You can watch two videos about apostrophes on this website, and there are practice exercises and answers as well. Thinking about apostrophes you come across in your reading is another good way to increase your ability to understand and use apostrophes.

There’s one more way to use apostrophes. When you’re writing the plural of a numeral or a letter, use an apostrophe:

Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.

The cashier gave me my change in 1’s and 5’s.

During the 60’s, many young people protested the Vietnam War.

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