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.
|of the clock||o’clock|
2) To indicate possession.
|singular with ‘s||Tom’s book|
|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.
|The girls walked by|
|My brothers are tall||
|I bought three CDs.||
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.