The art of apostrophes

Home learning focus

To improve the accuracy of your punctuation by revising apostrophes.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos to help you understand how to use apostrophes in your writing

  • three activities


Examiners often comment that students either don’t use apostrophes, or put them where they are not needed.

Watch this short clip for a reminder about using apostrophes for possession and for omission.

Ahmed's adventure involves several armies, a rickety bridge and a lesson in apostrophes.

Apostrophes are used for two main jobs, showing possession and showing omission.

Apostrophes for possession show that a thing belongs to someone or something.

For example:

  • Anna's book
  • the school's logo

Apostrophes for omission show where something, usually a letter, has been missed out.

For example:

  • haven't rather than have not.

Watch the following clip for some more ideas about apostrophes.

Watch along - can you pause the clip and spot the mistake?

Apostrophes for possession

For most nouns you need to add an apostrophe and an ‘s’ to show that something belongs to a person or thing. Instead of saying the bedroom of Luca, the apostrophe and the ‘s’ make it Luca's bedroom. Much easier! Here are some more examples:

  • the student's bravery
  • the headteacher's assembly
  • the team's performance

When a noun is plural and already ends in ‘s’, the apostrophe is placed at the end of a word. For example:

  • students' behaviour
  • dancers' routines

Putting the apostrophe at the end means that we know there are multiple students or many dancers being referred to.

Apostrophes for omission

Omission means leaving something out, and we often do this with letters or groups of letters in words. The apostrophe shows where this has happened. Sometimes we join two words together, like would've for would have. This is known as a contraction and the apostrophe, in this case, shows where the letters have been missed.

It’s or its?

These two words can cause confusion because they break the rules. Remember, it's with an apostrophe means it is or it has. In the sentence 'It’s a good idea', it works just like an ordinary contraction. Its without an apostrophe means belonging to it, for example: 'The bird spread its wings.'


Activity 1

Check your understanding. Test your knowledge with this quick quiz.

Now highlight any places below where apostrophes have been used incorrectly or are missing.

Activity 2

1. Rewrite the passage below adding apostrophes where they are needed:

Glens new puppy wasnt doing what it was told. In fact, its behaviour was problematic. First it stole the sausages that were meant for the workers. Next it jumped up and tore a hole in Ritas jeans. The neighbours complained about its barking, and walks were a nightmare because it pulled on the lead till Glens arms were sore.

‘Its beyond a joke’, said Glen.

The poor dogs tail was always wagging, but that didnt always bode well. Sometimes the tails wagging was strong enough to knock drinks off the table.

2. Now collect five examples of apostrophes being used incorrectly. These could be signs that you have seen yourself, or examples from the internet. Decide whether the meaning is affected by the missing or additional apostrophe.

3. Write a paragraph to explain the importance of the apostrophe.

Top tips

  • Think of punctuation like a code – it is useful if we all use it in the same way.

  • Odd apostrophe use happens frequently in relation to plural food, where an unnecessary apostrophe is added.

The word 'pies' on this sign does not need an apostrophe.

Activity 3

Click on the image below to check your understanding of how to use apostrophes using this activity from Seneca Learning.

Apostrophes with irregular plurals

Where next?

In this lesson you have revised apostrophes for possession and for omission.

There are other useful articles on Bitesize to help you with punctuation.

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