Apostrophe s

The English apostrophe s and s apostrophe cause a lot of problems, even for native speakers. This lesson’s task is to help you learn about possessives and contractions that need apostrophes and plurals that don’t.

The apostrophe has two purposes in English:

1) To indicate that one or more letters was dropped in a contraction.

uncontracted = contracted
it is it’s
we are we’re
does not doesn’t
of the clock o’clock

2) To indicate possession.

singular with ‘s Tom’s book
Jeannie’s idea
the girl’s toys (toys belong to one girl)
plural with s’ the books’ covers (several books)
my brothers’ jobs (my two brothers)
the girls’ toys (toys belong to several girls)

The apostrophe should never be used when talking about something that is plural, with no possession.

correct   incorrect
The girls walked by The girl’s walked by
My brothers are tall My brother’s are tall
Welcome travelers Welcome traveler’s
I bought three CDs. I bought three CD’s.

Note that it doesn’t matter what letter is at the end of any given word; you always need to add ‘s to show possession.

Mr. Jones   Mr. Jones’s car
Bill Blass Bill Blass’s designs
Las Vegas Las Vegas’s hotels
fox the fox’s habitat
Señor Ortiz Señor Ortiz’s class

The Bottom Line

Just remember that the apostrophe has a purpose: to indicate a contraction or possession. It does not indicate a plural – the letter s does a fine job of that all by itself.

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