LEO LEO: Literacy Education Online

Apostrophe Rules


  1. The apostrophe indicates that a number or a letter has been omitted:

    it is = it’s

    ‘65 = 1965

    does not = doesn’t

    ‘90 = 1990

  2. Apostrophes are also used to show possession or ownership. The apostrophe follows the noun that is owning something. Apostrophes can be troublesome when we need to think about singular nouns vs. plural nouns.


Singular Nouns (not ending with -s)

Owner

Thing Owned

Correct form

a child

shoes

a child’s shoes

anyone

idea

anyone’s idea

society

values

society’s values

a person

income

a person’s income

a country

leader

a country’s leader

Back

Singular Nouns (ending with -s)

Owner

Thing Owned

Correct form

Chris Jones

dog

Chris Jones’ dog

James

room

James’ room


Plural Nouns (not ending with -s)

Owner

Thing Owned

Correct form

people

beliefs

people’s beliefs

children

songs

children’s songs

women

rights

women’s rights

men

shoes

men’s shoes

Back


Plural Nouns (ending with -s)

Owner

Thing Owned

Correct form

two weeks

vacation

two weeks’ vacation

ten dollars

worth

ten dollars’ worth

the Joneses

house

the Joneses’ house

students

addresses

students’ addresses

two singers

performances

two singers’ performances


Additional Notes

  1. The following pronouns are already possessive and do not require apostrophes: yours, ours, its, theirs, his, hers, and whose.

  2. Usually, "of" is used to show possession for non-living things: the walls of the room, the color of your pants. Money and time words are exceptions: one week’s vacation, four dollars’ worth.

  3. Sometimes you may see a short word, like James, written with an s after the apostrophe. This is not incorrect; it is only a variation. We advise that you stick to the commonly used system in this web document.

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© 2000 The Write Place
LEO:  Literacy Education Online

The print handout was revised and then redesigned for the Web by Thomas Tate for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

Last update: 7 June 2000

URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/punct/apostrophe.html