Tip of the Day: Apostrophes

The apostrophe (‘) is one of the most used and misused English punctuation marks. No one is ever quite sure where to put it. You can use it  when things are left out (in contractions like don’t, we’ve, he’s, etc.) and you can use it to show possession.

The apostrophe is all about making a statement of ownership. You belong to me. This belongs to that. In grammar speak, the apostrophe shows the possessive of nouns.

There are four ways to use the apostrophe to show ownership or belonging.

1. Add apostrophe s to the end of a singular noun that does not end in s:

  • the manager’s room

2. Add apostrophe s to the end of a singular noun, even if it ends in s (this practice may vary in some places):

  • Doris’s scarf

3. Add apostrophe s to the end of a plural noun that doesn’t end in s

  • the children’s bag

4. If the plural noun ends in s, just add the apostrophe

  • my friends’ car

Notice that possessive pronouns like yours, his, hers, ours, its and theirs are not followed by the apostrophe.

Finally, if you want to play around with it, Wikipedia has a list of four phrases illustrating how the apostrophe can literally change the meaning of sentences.

  • my sister’s friend’s investments (I have one sister and she has one friend.)
  • my sisters’ friends’ investments (I have many sisters and they have many friends.)
  • my sisters’ friend’s investments (I have many sisters and they have one friend.)
  • my sister’s friends’ investments (I have one sister and she has many friends.)