i. Apostrophes


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An apostrophe (’) is a punctuation mark that is used with a noun to show possession or to indicate where a letter has been left out to form a contraction.


Singular nouns

An apostrophe and the letter s indicate who or what owns something. To show possession with a singular noun, add ’s.

Possessive apostrophes with singular nouns
Sample sentence with the possessive apostrophe and in bold Explanation
Ibrahim’s dance routine mesmerized everyone in the room. The dance routine belongs to Ibrahim, so ‘s is added after Ibrahim’s name.
The dog’s leash is hanging on the hook beside the door. The leash belongs to the dog, so ‘s is added after the dog.
Jess’s sister is also coming to the party. The sister referred to is the sister of Jess, so ‘s is added to Jess.

Notice that singular nouns that end in s still take the apostrophe s (’s) ending to show possession.  See “Should I use its or it’s” below for one exception: we do not add an apostrophe to make the singular pronoun it possessive; we only add an s.


Plural nouns

To show possession with a plural noun that ends in s, just add an apostrophe (’). If the plural noun does not end in s, add an apostrophe and an s (’s).

Possessive apostrophes with plural nouns
Sample sentence with the possessive apostrophe and in bold Explanation
The drummerssticks all moved in the same rhythm, like a machine. Drummers is a plural noun that ends in s, so we add an apostrophe but no additional after the apostrophe.
The people’s votes clearly showed that no one supported the management decision. People is a plural noun that does not end in s, so we add an apostrophe and an s.


A contraction is a word that is formed by combining two words. In a contraction, an apostrophe shows where one or more letters have been left out. Contractions are commonly used in informal writing but not in formal writing.

For example, “I do not like ice cream” becomes “I don’t like ice cream.” The words do and not have been combined to form the contraction don’t. The apostrophe shows where the o in not has been left out.

Commonly Used Contractions
Contraction Original Words
aren’t are not
can’t cannot
doesn’t does not
don’t do not
isn’t is not
he’ll he will
I’ll I will
she’ll she will
they’ll they will
you’ll you will
it’s it is, it has
let’s let us
she’s she is, she has
there’s there is, there has
who’s who is, who has

Should I use it’s or its?

Many writers confuse the possessive form its with the contraction it’s. Its is a possessive pronoun. It’s is a contraction of the words it and is. When in doubt, substitute the words it is in a sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, use the contraction it’s. For more information on this, see the chapter on Possessive Pronouns.

Examples of its and it’s
Sample sentence with its or it’s in bold Explanation
It’s cold and rainy outside. It is cold and rainy outside, so we use the contraction it’s.
The cat was chasing its tail. The tail belongs to the cat, so we use the possessive form its.

Exercises: Correct the following sentences by adding apostrophes as needed.

  1. What a beautiful child! She has her mothers eyes.
  2. My brothers wife is one of my best friends.
  3. I couldnt believe it when I found out that I got the job!
  4. My supervisors informed me that I wouldnt be able to take the days off.
  5. Each of the students responses were unique.
  6. Wont you please join me for dinner tonight?



“Apostrophes” was adapted from “13.18: Apostrophes” of  How Arguments Work – A Guide to Writing and Analyzing Texts in College (Mills), used according to creative commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.




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i. Apostrophes Copyright © 2023 by University of New Mexico is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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