Apostrophe meaning

Apostrophe (’) Definition, Rules, And Examples (Bonus Worksheet)

The apostrophe (’) may seem small, but it plays a mighty role in English punctuation. Misusing it can lead to confusion, which is why understanding its proper application is crucial.

This guide will explore the apostrophe’s definition, its uses, and common pitfalls to avoid. Plus, we’re including a free worksheet to help you practice what you’ve learned.

Whether you’re a student, a professional, or simply keen on polishing your English, this post is your go-to resource.

Get Your Punctuation Right:

Apostrophe Meaning

What is an apostrophe?

The apostrophe is a punctuation mark used to indicate possession or the omission of letters or numbers

It helps clarify the meaning of sentences by showing ownership or by contracting words to make them easier to read and understand.

Apostrophe Symbol

The apostrophe looks like a single quote mark and is placed before or after an “s” to indicate possession or in place of omitted letters in contractions.

Apostrophe Pronunciation

The word “apostrophe” is pronounced as /əˈpɒstrəfi/. 

It consists of four syllables, with an emphasis on the second syllable. 

When To Use An Apostrophe 

Forming Possessive Nouns

The apostrophe is crucial when turning a common noun into a possessive noun. This helps to indicate ownership or a relationship to another noun. 

For singular nouns, the possessive is formed by adding ’s to the end of the noun. For example, “the dog’s leash” indicates that the leash belongs to the dog.

When it comes to plural nouns that already end in -s, you only need to add an apostrophe after the existing s. For example, “the dogs’ leashes” indicates that the leashes belong to multiple dogs.

If a singular noun ends in -s, add just an apostrophe after the s (for example, “James’ book”).

Showing Omission of Letters and Numbers

Contractions: Simplifying Words Efficiently

Apostrophes also indicate where letters or numbers have been omitted, often in contractions or when indicating certain dialects or colloquial speech.

Contractions play a vital role in both spoken and written English, creating a more informal tone and mirroring natural speech. They are formed by merging two words and omitting certain letters, which are then replaced by an apostrophe:

  • “Do not” contracts to “Don’t,” with the omission of the letter ‘o’.
  • “I am” becomes “I’m,” dropping the ‘a’ for a more concise form.

Here are some common contractions and their full forms:

ContractionFull Form
I’mI am
You’reYou are
He’sHe is / He has
She’sShe is / She has
It’sIt is / It has
We’reWe are
They’reThey are
That’sThat is / That has
Who’sWho is / Who has
Isn’tIs not
Aren’tAre not
Wasn’tWas not
Weren’tWere not
Don’tDo not
Doesn’tDoes not
Didn’tDid not
Couldn’tCould not
Shouldn’tShould not
Wouldn’tWould not
Won’tWill not
Haven’tHave not
Hasn’tHas not
Hadn’tHad not
Let’sLet us
There’sThere is / There has
Here’sHere is
Where’sWhere is / Where has
I’veI have
You’veYou have
We’veWe have
They’veThey have
I’dI would / I had
You’dYou would / You had
He’dHe would / He had
She’dShe would / She had
It’dIt would / It had
We’dWe would / We had
They’dThey would / They had

Numbers: Streamlining Years and Dates

Apostrophes also serve to abbreviate numbers, particularly years, by indicating the removal of numerals:

  • When referring to the “Class of 2004,” it’s often shortened to “Class of ’04,” omitting the first two digits (’20’) for brevity.

Emulating Informal Speech in Writing

In writing, especially when aiming to capture the casual essence of speech, contractions can convey a sense of informality or artistic flair:

  • The phrase “rock ‘n’ roll” contracts “rock and roll” by replacing “and” with an apostrophe, effectively capturing the colloquial spirit of the term.

Indicating Joint Possession

When indicating joint possession with apostrophes, where two or more people own something together, you place the apostrophe after the last person’s name only.

However, if you are indicating individual possession, where each person owns a separate instance of the item, then you would place an apostrophe after each person’s name.

Here’s a simple table to illustrate:

Joint Ownership (Single Item Owned Together)Individual Ownership (Separate Items Owned)
Maya and Ethan’s podcastMaya’s and Ethan’s blogs
Lila and Noah’s businessLila’s and Noah’s investments
the teachers’ lounge (multiple teachers)the teacher’s and the principal’s offices
parents’ evening (multiple sets of parents)the mother’s and the father’s roles

Apostrophe Examples

Usage TypeExampleExplanation
Singular PossessionThe cat’s toyIndicates the toy belongs to one cat.
Plural Possession (regular)The cats’ toysIndicates the toys belong to multiple cats.
Plural Possession (irregular)The children’s playgroundIndicates the playground belongs to the children.
Singular noun ending in “s”James’s car or James’ carShows possession, style may vary.
ContractionsDon’t (Do not)Replaces the omitted “o” with an apostrophe.
Omitting LettersRock ‘n’ rollApostrophe replaces the “and”.
Omitting NumbersClass of ’22Indicates omission of the first two numbers of the year.
Joint PossessionAna and Marco’s houseIndicates the house belongs to both Ana and Marco.
Individual PossessionAna’s and Marco’s booksIndicates Ana and Marco each have their own books.

When Not To Use An Apostrophe

1. Avoiding double or triple “s”: Do not add another “s” after the possessive apostrophe if the word already ends with one or two “s” sounds (e.g., “consciousness’ sake” rather than “consciousness’s sake”).

2. Making names plural: To pluralize a name, simply add -s or -es without an apostrophe (e.g., “The Smiths” not “The Smith’s”).

3. Using possessive pronouns: Apostrophes should not be used with possessive pronouns like “yours,” “hers,” “its,” “ours,” “theirs,” or “whose.” These already indicate possession and require no apostrophe.

PronounPossessive PronounAbsolute (Independent) Form
you (singular or plural)youryours

Apostrophe Worksheet

This worksheet will guide you through exercises that challenge you to apply the rules for using apostrophes correctly.

Exercise 1: Creating Possessive Nouns

Rewrite the following phrases to include a possessive noun with an apostrophe:

  1. The bicycle that belongs to Jill → _________
  2. The report cards of the students → _________
  3. The shared office of the doctors → _________

Exercise 2: Contractions

Write the contraction for each pair of words, using an apostrophe:

  1. I will → _________
  2. She is → _________
  3. They have → _________

Exercise 3: Omissions in Speech

Write the colloquial version of these phrases, using apostrophes where appropriate:

  1. I am going to make them an offer → _________
  2. You all would have had fun → _________
  3. I have got to get moving → _________

Answer Key:

Exercise 1

  1. Jill’s bicycle
  2. The students’ report cards
  3. The doctors’ shared office

Exercise 2

  1. I’ll
  2. She’s
  3. They’ve

Exercise 3

  1. I’m gonna make ’em an offer
  2. Y’all would’ve had fun
  3. I’ve gotta get moving

FAQs On Apostrophes

Do You Use (’) In A Sentence?

Yes, an apostrophe is used in sentences primarily for two reasons: to indicate possession or to show the omission of letters or numbers. 

What Are The 3 Rules For Apostrophes?

  1. To indicate possession
  2. To form contractions
  3. To show omission of letters or numbers

What Are The 2 Types Of Apostrophes?

There are two main uses for apostrophes:

  1. Contraction Apostrophes: These shorten words by replacing missing letters. For example, “do not” becomes “don’t.”
  2. Possessive Apostrophes: These show ownership, as in “Jessica’s idea.”

If you found our guide on apostrophes helpful, don’t forget to come back for more insightful tips and explanations on English grammar and punctuation. Bookmark this page so you can easily revisit it whenever you need a quick refresher on using apostrophes correctly.

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