Apostrophes

An apostrophe looks like this: ‘

In writing, we use apostrophes for two reasons:

Omission:

Possession:

When a word or words have been shortened

For example:

it is / it has —> it’s
I am —> I’m
he is / he has —> he’s
you are —> you’re

But note – you’re (you are) is different from your (belonging to you)

they have —> they’ve
have not —> haven’t
should not —> shouldn’t
is not —> isn’t

But note:

will not —> won’t

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Some more irregular examples

who would —> who’d
pick and mix —> pick ‘n’ mix
Hallow evening —> Hallowe’en
she would have —> she’d’ve
of the clock —> o’clock

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To show that something belongs to someone (or something)

This lets us say something in a shorter way.

For example:

Instead of saying ‘the coat of John’, we can say ‘John’s coat’.

We put the apostrophe after the owner, and add an ‘s’. In this case, John is the owner.

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Some more possession examples

The man’s coat got soaking wet in the rain.
Patrick’s alarm clock did not go off so he was late for work.
The dog’s lead snapped and he ran away.
The book’s cover was damaged so it was on sale at a reduced price.
Today’s weather will be warm and sunny.
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The strange case of 'it'

The word ‘it’ behaves rather differently to other words where apostrophes are concerned.

‘It’ does not require an apostrophe to denote possession (as with ‘hers’, ‘his’ and ‘ours’).
‘The dog chased its tail.’

However ‘it is’ can be shortened to ‘it’s’ as in the omission examples above.
‘It’s a lovely day, isn’t it?’

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What if there is more than one owner?

If there is more than one owner, the apostrophe comes after the ‘s’.

For example:

Instead of saying ‘the tank of the soldiers’, we can say ‘the soldiers’ tank’.

The apostrophe comes after the ‘s’ because there is more than one owner.

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More examples with more than one owner

The girls’ coats got soaked when they got caught in the storm.
In the final competition, all the dancers’ routines were fantastic.
Battersea Dogs’ Home was established in 1860.
Ten years’ hard work was at stake.

If you are finding it hard to remember where to place the apostrophe, ask yourself if there is one owner, or more than one.

Remember, there is more than one girl at this school so it’s Walderslade Girls’ School!

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Ownership and irregular plurals

If the owner has an irregular plural that does not end in ‘s’ the apostrophe goes after the complete plural noun but before the ‘s’.

The women’s cloakroom is down the corridor on the right.
He really deserved to win the People’s Choice Award.
The sheep’s coats were heavy and matted by springtime.

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