Apostrophe usage is often neglected by many of us and the result is vague, incorrect sentences. This article is an attempt to help the readers understand when to use an apostrophe and how.

Apostrophe Usage

Have you ever been a part of a heated argument arising out of apostrophe abuse? Are you looking for an all-time desk aid to answer whenever you are in a fix to use an apostrophe? The sad part is that the usage of this poor little thing is often either ignored or misunderstood by a lot of us and we end up writing sinful English. A lot of us remain confused whether to use ‘it’s’ or ‘its’. Let’s put an end to this confusion and get our facts right. The apostrophe, symbolized as (‘), is primarily used to indicate omission of words and numbers, to form certain plurals and, most commonly, to indicate ownership. Many words and sentences sound incomplete and incorrect without an apostrophe, as there is no sense of possession or classification to them. Keep reading to find some basic rules; they will give you a heads up on the correct usage of apostrophe. These are very simple explanations but will work at making you more adept at the use of apostrophe.
When to Use Apostrophe
Apostrophe to Show Omission
Apostrophe use is made to indicate certain omitted characters like in contractions, abbreviations and in forming certain plurals. For example, when you want to merge two words to form a shorter and simpler word such as:
  • Do not/Cannot/Will Not/Are not – Don't/Can’t/Won’t/Aren’t
  • I will/We will/You will/They will – I'll/We’ll/You’ll/They’ll
  • You are/They are – You're/They’re
  • She is/It is/ Who is – She’s/It’s/ Who's
  • Let us – Let's
  • Could have/Should have/Would have – Could've/Should’ve/Would’ve
  • Saint Joseph – S’t. Joseph (especially in names of institutions)
  • 1980 – '80
Apostrophe to Show Possession of Singular Nouns
The apostrophe is most commonly used at the end of a singular noun, to show its possessive form. The word ends with a sound of ‘s’ or ‘z’. These examples will give you an idea:
  • Jamie’s books.
  • My uncle’s house.
  • Bill Clinton’s wife.
  • Today’s temperature.
  • My boss’s dog.
  • The elephant’s ears.
  • Kevin’s account.
Apostrophe to Show Possession of Plural Nouns
When a noun is in normal plural form, which already has an 's' at the end, there is no need to add an extra 's' for the possession; just the apostrophe mark (‘) would do. But if the plural is not one which has an 's', then adding one with an apostrophe is the correct way. Let’s pick up a few examples.
  • The kids’ chairs.
  • The lions’ dens.
  • The girls’ coats.
  • The army’s quarters.
  • Most people’s cars.
  • The women’s restroom.
  • The men’s training camps.
Apostrophe to Show Possession of Compound Nouns
Some compound nouns have their singular possessions formed with an apostrophe and an added 's'. This is applicable even for the plural possessions of these compound nouns. Have a look at these examples:
  • My sister-in-law's new house.
  • The Chief Justice's wife.
  • The Attorney General's interventions.
  • The Planning Commission’s decision.
  • The Ministry of Tourism’s property.
Apostrophe to Indicate Plurals
As a general rule, we do not normally use an apostrophe to form plurals of nouns- including dates, acronyms, and family names. However, at some places, we may occasionally have to use an apostrophe to indicate the plural forms. This happens in the case of certain letters and expressions:
  • There are no if’s and but’s to this rule; we all need to abide by it.
  • Underline your r’s and circle your t’s.
Hope these basic rules will clear your concepts of apostrophe usage and you’ll come up with clear, concise and flawless written English.

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