The apostrophe ( ’ although often rendered as ' ) is a punctuation mark, and sometimes a diacritic mark, in languages that use the Latin alphabet or certain other alphabets. In English, it serves three purposes:
- The marking of the omission of one or more letters (as in the contraction of do not to don't).
- The marking of possessive case (as in the cat's whiskers).
- The marking as plural of written items that are not words established in English orthography (as in P's and Q's, the late 1950's). (This is considered incorrect by some; see Use in forming certain plurals. The use of the apostrophe to form plurals of proper words, as in apple's, banana's, etc., is universally considered incorrect.)
Rule 1Use the apostrophe with contractions. The apostrophe is always placed at the spot where the letter(s) has been removed.
She's a great teacher.
Rule 2Use the apostrophe to show possession. Place the apostrophe before the s to show singular possession.
one boy's hat
one woman's hat
one actress's hat
one child's hat
Ms. Chang's house
NOTE: Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.
Mr. Jones's golf clubs
Ms. Straus's daughter
Jose Sanchez's artwork
Dr. Hastings's appointment (name is Hastings)
Mrs. Lees's books (name is Lees)
Rule 3Use the apostrophe where the noun that should follow is implied.
This was his father's, not his, jacket.
Rule 4To show plural possession, make the noun plural first. Then immediately use the apostrophe.
two boys' hats two women's hats
two actresses' hats
two children's hats
the Changs' house
the Joneses' golf clubs
the Strauses' daughter
the Sanchezes' artwork
the Hastingses' appointment
the Leeses' books
Rule 5Do not use an apostrophe for the plural of a name.
We visited the Sanchezes in Los Angeles.
The Changs have two cats and a dog.
Rule 6With a singular compound noun, show possession with 's at the end of the word.
my mother-in-law's hat
Rule 7If the compound noun is plural, form the plural first and then use the apostrophe.
my two brothers-in-law's hats
Rule 8Use the apostrophe and s after the second name only if two people possess the same item.
Cesar and Maribel's home is constructed of redwood.
Cesar's and Maribel's job contracts will be renewed next year.
Indicates separate ownership.
Cesar and Maribel's job contracts will be renewed next year.
Indicates joint ownership of more than one contract.
Rule 9Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose. They already show possession so they do not require an apostrophe.
This book is hers, not yours.
Rule 10The only time an apostrophe is used for it's is when it is a contraction for it is or it has.
It's a nice day.
It's your right to refuse the invitation.
It's been great getting to know you.
Rule 11The plurals for capital letters and numbers used as nouns are not formed with apostrophes.
She consulted with three M.D.s.
She went to three M.D.s' offices.
The apostrophe is needed here to show plural possessive.
She learned her ABCs.
the 1990s not the 1990's
the '90s or the mid-'70s not the '90's or the mid-'70's
She learned her times tables for 6s and 7s.
Use apostrophes with capital letters and numbers when the meaning would be unclear otherwise.
Please dot your i's.
You don't mean is.
Ted couldn't distinguish between his 6's and 0's.
You need to use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of zero or it will look like the word Os. To be consistent within a sentence, you would also use the apostrophe to indicate the plural of 6's.
Rule 12Use the possessive case in front of a gerund (-ing word).
Alex's skating was a joy to behold.
This does not stop Joan's inspecting of our facilities next Thursday.
Rule 13If the gerund has a pronoun in front of it, use the possessive form of that pronoun.
I appreciate your inviting me to dinner. I appreciated his working with me to resolve the conflict.
Sorry for the soapbox rant. I just feel that folks are getting dumber by the minute. Y'all have a good un'.