Ten Tips for Using Apostrophes

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  1. When forming contractions, replace the removed letters with an apostrophe.
    For example:
    I have not got time to meet with you this week.
    I havent got time to meet with you this week.
    Don’t forget the apostrophes in the irregular formations ‘shan’t’ and ‘won’t’ (short for ‘shall not’ and ‘will not’).
  2. Use an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’ to indicate singular possession including when the noun ends in ‘s’.
    For example:
    Last week I took Sallys dog for a walk.
    I’d love to visit St Jamess Park.
  3. When indicating a plural possession, turn the noun into a plural first and then follow with an apostrophe.
    Only add a further ‘s’ if the plural of the noun doesn’t already end in ‘s’.
    For example:
    Let’s meet at my parents house.
    The childrens table is in the far corner of the room.
  4. Use an apostrophe to indicate when the possession that is supposed to follow is implied.
    For example:
    I forgot my jacket at my boyfriends.
    Don’t use that mug, it’s my housemates.
    I’m staying at my parents.
  5. If two or more people share ownership of the same item, add an apostrophe and ‘s’ after the final name only.
    For example:
    We’re going to my aunt and uncles house.
  6. If two or more people have separate ownership of similar items, add an apostrophe and ‘s’ after both names.
    For example:
    The teacher requested a meeting to talk about Oscars and Merediths falling grades.
  7. With compound nouns, only use an apostrophe and ‘s’ at the end of the word. In the case of a plural, form the plural before adding the apostrophe and ‘s’.
    For example:
    We’re having dinner at my mother-in-laws house.
    My brothers-in-laws speeches were very moving.
  8. Use the possessive case when a ‘–ing’ word serves as a noun.
    For example:
    Mr Smiths teaching was less than adequate.
    Georges singing was delightful to listen to.
  9. NEVER use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose.
    But remember that the contractions for ‘it is’ and ‘who is’ are ‘it’s’ and ‘who’s’.
    For example:
    It’s fun to watch a dog chase after its ball.
  10. Plurals are NEVER formed with apostrophes, not even in the case of capital letters and numbers.
    For example:
    I personally know the CEOs of three different companies.
    “If I had a time machine, I would travel back to the 1950s.”

    However do still use apostrophes to indicate possession:
    My PAs office is next door to mine.
    It is very important to vote in 2014s local elections.
    I adore 1950s’ fashion.

    (It’s worth noting here that the rules of grammar are always evolving depending on usage, and in America (but not so much in Britain) the plural apostrophe is becoming increasingly tolerated.)

We hope you’ve found these tips helpful. Do get in touch if you have any questions – you’re definitely not alone if you find using apostrophes confusing.

Have a good week!

Avani Shah


19 May 2014
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"This is a fantastic opportunity for our students!  I'm sure Spellzone will be invaluable in helping them to improve their spellings and therefore improve the quality of their writing in all subject areas!"

Teacher, High School, UK