Like the comma, the apostrophe wields amazing power. The talented little dot-and-tail combination (though written at the top of the line, not at the bottom like the comma) can change pronouns to verbs, tell you who owns what, replace a small handful of letters, and make plurals. It comes from the Greek words meaning to turn from or omission.

After commas, apostrophes seem to be the most misused punctuation mark; grammar vigilantes have their work cut out for them.

1- Apostrophe Use: Possessive Case Of Nouns

With the addition of ‘s (or sometimes just the apostrophe), a noun can change from a plain old person, place or thing to a person, place or thing that owns something.

-If the noun doesn’t end with an s, add ‘s to the end of the noun.

This is Mary and a dog. The dog is Mary’s; Mary is not the dog’s.

This thick blind is capable of shutting out the summer sun’s heat and light.

This is the way to the men’s room.

She got a job in the children’s section of the library.

-If the noun ends with an s, add just the apostrophe to the end of the noun.

This is the boys’ bedroom.

My parents’ house is a lovely old one.

Where is Jess’ book bag?

The scissors’ handles just snapped off.

-If you have a compound noun, change only the last one to the possessive.

Mike and Amanda’s new loft apartment is really neat.

Please tell Annie and Mary’s mother that they’ll be late getting home from school.

-If the possessor is a building, an object, or a piece of furniture, then you don’t need to add an apostrophe to show possession.

The maid cleaned the hotel’s room.

The hotel’s room – the hotel room

The office’s lobby – the office lobby

The shoe’s lace – the shoe lace

The car’s door – the car door

The table’s top – the table top

The chair’s leg – the chair leg

2- Apostrophe Use: Contractions And Omissions

Apostrophes can show an omission of letters, whether as part of a contraction or when showing dialect or accent.

I’m = I am

Where’s = where is

Who’s = who is

It’s = it is, or it has (N.B. This is the contraction, not the possessive.)

Isn’t = is not

Couldn’t = could not

Who’d = who would

Aren’t = are not

‘Cause = because

Ain’t = is not, are not

D’you = do you

Hallowe’en = Hallow evening

Jo’burg = Johannesburg

3-Apostrophe And Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns don’t require an apostrophe.

Who’s book is that? = Whose book is that?

That book is his’. = That book is his.

No, it’s mine’s! = No, it’s mine!

The cat washed it’s face. = The cat washed its face.

N.B. It’s is a contraction of it is, not a possessive pronoun.


Indefinite pronouns can be made plural.

One – one’s

It is best to mind one’s own business.

One should always look one’s best.

4-Forming Plurals Of Lowercase Or Uppercase Letters

When you’re trying to describe plural letters, use ‘s after the letter so that it’s clearly identified as a letter, not a word. If, for instance, you write is instead of i’s, your reader will get confused between the verb and the letter i.

Mind your p’s and q’s, my dear!

Alliteration refers to the repetition of a sound, such as all the s’s in Sammy the snake slithered silently.

How am I supposed to write this essay if my keyboard won’t let me type any e’s?!

5-Possessive Case Of Indefinite Pronouns

Indefinite pronouns can be made possessive with the use of ‘s. Indefinite pronouns are words like someone, other, and any.

It’s always good to know one’s enemy.

Is this anyone’s backpack lying here on the ground?

That’s not Helen’s handwriting; it must be someone else’s.

Try putting yourself in another’s shoes.