Apostrophes

Apostrophes are used to signal two things to a reader:

  1. possession (apostrophe + ‘s’)
  2. omission (replaces a letter or letters in a word or words)

Possession

This is when one thing belongs to another. The apostrophe + ‘s’ shows ownership.

For example:

Example 1 – The boy’s shoes were left outside the door.

Example 2 – The dog’s paws were dirty.

If the possessive noun is plural and ends in an ‘s’ already, then an apostrophe is placed at the end of the word, but there is no need for the extra ‘s’:

For example:

Example 1- The boys’ (not boys’s) shoes were outside the door.

Example 2 - The dogs’ (not dogs’s) paws were dirty.

curriculum-key-fact
Work out where to put the apostrophe by thinking what belongs to whom. The boy’s shoes were left outside the door. (The shoes belonging to the boy were left outside the door.) The boys’ shoes were left outside the door. (The shoes belonging to the boys were left outside the door.)

With singular nouns that end in an ‘s’, you can either add an apostrophe alone to show possession, or you can add an apostrophe + ‘s’. Both are correct, but you should be consistent.

For example:

Example 1 – Mr Jones’s clock has stopped. Or - Mr Jones’ clock has stopped.

Example 2 – The class’s homework was due. Or - The class’ homework was due.

Omission

This is when we miss out letters from words to shorten them, forming a 'contraction'.

For example:

Example 1 - do not becomes don’t.

Example 2 - could not becomes couldn’t.

Example 3 - cannot becomes can’t.

Example 4 - will not is irregular and becomes won’t.

Its and it's

'Its' (without an apostrophe) shows a relationship of possession, eg 'Its fur is smooth and shiny.'

'It's' uses an apostrophe to show contraction. 'It's' is short for 'it is' (or sometimes 'it has').

For example:

It’s almost home time! = It is almost home time!

It's got a lot of errors in it. = It has got a lot of errors in it.