The Apostrophe

The Apostrophe

In this lesson, you'll learn how to correctly use the apostrophe in the English language.


There are two uses of the Apostrophe in the English language:

  1. To show that a word has been shortened
  2. To show the possessive case of a noun.

This lesson will go over both of these uses.


In spoken English words are sometimes not fully pronounced. A word that has been shortened like this is called a contraction. An apostrophe is used in the written language to show that a word has been shortened.

In some very common cases when a word is not fully pronounced, it also loses its stress, so it sounds like it has been joined onto the previous word. The verb "be" is is very often contracted and joined to the subject of the sentence. The following table shows some common contractions of the verb "be":

Complete Words Contraction
I am I'm
she is she's
he is he's
it is it's
who is who's
we are we're
you are you're
they are they're
John is John's
the cat is the cat's

The following table shows some common contractions with other verbs:

Complete Words Contraction
I will I'll
that will that'll
will not won't
would have would've
would not wouldn't
shall not shan't
should have should've
do not don't
did not didn't
he has he's
have not haven't
she had she'd
had not hadn't
cannot can't
could have could've
could not couldn't
might have might've
must have must've


  1. "He's" can mean "he is" or "he has".
  2. Some contractions are irregular such as "won't" for "will not."
  3. "They're is a contraction of they are, "their" is the possesive form of they, and "there" is an adverb meaning at that place. Be careful with these three words since they all sound the same, so it can be easy to mix them up.

When writing formal documents, it is best to minimize the use of contractions.

Possessive Case of Nouns

The second use for the apostrophe in English is to indicate the possessive case of a noun. When a noun is in the possessive case, it indicates that the noun owns or created the following noun. Pronouns also have a possessive case, but an apostrophe is not used with pronouns to indicate the possessive case. This causes confusion for many people . "It's" is a contraction for "it is" or "it has". "its" is the possesive form of the pronoun "it".

Nouns in the possessive case add an 's to the end of a singular noun. For plural nouns that end in s, an apostrophe is added to the end of the word. For plural nouns that don’t end in s, such as children and people, 's is added to the end of the word.


The car’s wheels have been removed.

Mary’s necklace is expensive.

The children’s presents need to be bought.

The cats’ owners are on vacation, so I have to look after them.


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