Proper punctuation marks are essential for providing clarity and structure to our written language, particularly in academic writing. An apostrophe is a punctuation mark commonly used in informal and formal writing to indicate possession, contractions of words, or abbreviations. In this article, we’ll discuss the rules of using punctuation marks: apostrophe, explore how to properly use them, and debunk some common misconceptions about their usage. Learn how to master the apostrophe today!

What is an Apostrophe?

An apostrophe (‘) is a punctuation mark showing possession, contractions of words, or abbreviations. To indicate possession, an apostrophe is placed before the letter “s” at the end of a word (‘s). For example, in the sentence “The dog’s toy,” the apostrophe indicates that the toy belongs to the dog.

When using contractions, an apostrophe replaces one or more missing letters. For example, instead of writing “do not,” you would use “don’t.”

Lastly, an apostrophe replaces missing letters that show the tenses of an abbreviation. For example, “cc” is short for “carbon-copy,” and when converted in the past tense, it becomes “cc’d” or “carbon-copied.”

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Apostrophe Rules and Correct Usage

An in-depth understanding of apostrophes contributes to a learner’s strong command of the English language and grammar. Hence, a comprehensive guide is laid out below to guide you in using apostrophes correctly and effectively:

Usage of Possessive Apostrophe According to Editorial Style Manuals

In general,  the possessive case of a noun is expressed by using a possessive apostrophe (‘) followed by the letter ‘s.’ The guidelines for using the possessive form depend on the writing convention one follows. Let’s consider the Chicago Manual of Style Manual compared to the Associated Press Style Manual with singular nouns.

Chicago Manual of StyleAssociated Press Style
Singular common nouns ending in the letter ‘s’ has the possessive form apostrophe + s.


The business’s products are popular.

The class’s professor walked out on them.
Singular common nouns ending in the letter ‘s’ has the possessive form apostrophe + s.


Texas’s tourism is booming.

The octopus’s tentacles are long, slimy, and powerful.

However, if the next word starts with the letter ‘s,’ only use an apostrophe.


Texas’ scenic spots were featured in the magazine.

The octopus’ slimy tentacles are a fascinating feature of this mysterious creature.
Use apostrophe + s for proper nouns ending in the letter ‘s.’


Mr. Williams’s suggestion is doable.

Iris’s start-up business won the competition.
Proper nouns ending in the letter ‘s’ only take an apostrophe for their possessive form.


Mr. Williams’ suggestion is doable.

Iris’ start-up business won the competition.
Table of Possessive Apostrophe Style Guide

The single-word plural nouns, on the other hand, only take an apostrophe to form its possessive case.

Here are a few examples:

  • The cats’ room is full of toys.
  • The workers’ union gained victory in their fight for working conditions.
  • The analysts’ report is due next week.
  • Her friends’ houses are all in the same neighborhood.
  • The Phillips’ cars are all parked in the driveway.
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Other Rules of Possessive Apostrophe

Rules when using the possessive apostropheExamples
When using an apostrophe to show separate ownership, add the apostrophe ‘s’ (‘s) at the end of each noun mentioned in the sentence.grandmother’s shoe collection
sister-in-law’s house
editor-in-chief’s computer
rich man’s son
famous artist’s car
When using an apostrophe to show separate ownership, add apostrophe ‘s’ (‘s) at the end of each noun mentioned in the sentence.Amalia and Bernardo’s business
Warren, Julius, and Peter’s project
mother and sister’s closet
Company X and Company Y’s collaboration
husband and wife’s house
Multi-worded nouns or compound nouns form their possessive form by adding the apostrophe ‘s’ (‘s) at the end of the last word.When using an apostrophe to show joint ownership, add the apostrophe ‘s’ (‘s) at the last noun mentioned in the sentence.
Table of Rules for Possessive Apostrophes

Usage of Apostrophe to Show Contractions

Aside from showing possession, an apostrophe can also contract or shorten figures and words. Here are a few examples:

Expanded FormShortened Form with Apostrophe
I amI’m
You areYou’re
She isShe’s
He isHe’s
It isIt’s
We areWe’re
They areThey’re
Could notCouldn’t
Should notShouldn’t
Will notWon’t
Have notHaven’t
Had notHadn’t
Is notIsn’t
Are notAren’t
Do notDon’t
Table for Apostrophes that Show Contractions
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Usage of Apostrophe to Pluralize Certain Language Components

Generally, an apostrophe is not used to make a word plural. However, there are a few exceptions to the rule summarized in the table below:

Use apostrophes to pluralize letters and words. In a sentence, it means that there are a number of those components that need to be considered.Encircle all A’s and B’s in the paper.
Cross out ten G’s and K’s.
Count all which’s and what’s in the paragraph.
Use an apostrophe to pluralize abbreviations with both internal and external periods.M.D.’s
Figures or numbers are expressed in plural form with or without an apostrophe1970’s or 1970s
bundle of 20’s or bundle of 20s
2000’s or 2000s
Table of Pluralization Using Apostrophes

Usage of Apostrophe to Show Tenses of Abbreviated Verbs

Although it is uncommon, an apostrophe is used to create tenses for abbreviated verbs. Here are a few examples:

Abbreviated VerbPast TensePresent Participle
Table of Apostrophe Usage with Abbreviated Verbs

Examples of Sentences Using Apostrophe

Here are twenty examples of words with apostrophes used in sentences:

  1. We’ve been waiting for the bus for half an hour.
  2. She’ll be here soon.
  3. I can’t believe how long it’s taken us to get here.
  4. Let’s take a break for lunch.
  5. The dog’s tail was wagging eagerly.
  6. Don’t forget to bring your passport!
  7. He’d like to go on vacation.
  8. You shouldn’t have done that.
  9. I’m glad you’re here.
  10. They’ve been working on this project for days.
  11. Carl’s phone was ringing off the hook.
  12. The children’s toys were scattered all over the floor.
  13. The professor’s lecture was full of interesting information.
  14. The cat’s fur was soft and fluffy.
  15. The ’80s were a great decade for music.
  16. The Smiths’ house is the one with the white picket fence.
  17. Alexis’ coat was in the closet.
  18. My parents’ anniversary is coming up soon.
  19. Wilma and Dave’s wedding was beautiful.
  20. The neighbors’ kids are always playing outside.
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Using Apostrophe Exercises with Answers

Convert the words on the left column into their proper forms using apostrophes.

Expanded WordForm with Apostrophe
can not 
he is 
carbon copied 
Kyle is the owner of the shoes. 
Mara and Dana owns a shop separately. 
Apostrophe Exercise Worksheet


Expanded WordForm with Apostrophe
can notcan’t
he ishe’s
carbon copiedcc’d
Kyle is the owner of the shoes.Kyle’s shoes
Mara and Dana owns a shop separately.Mara’s and Dana’s shops
Apostrophe Exercise Answers
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List of Punctuations in English

Question Mark?
Exclamation Point!
En Dash
Em Dash
Braces{ }
Table of English Punctuations
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

English grammar, like any language, is a complex subject to study. Understanding and applying grammar rules can be challenging, especially for English language learners. However, your success in learning the language is dependent on your learning plan.

First, know that there are different levels of language proficiency. Knowing your status allows you to align it with your study materials and learning strategy. To keep your motivation, select beginner-friendly materials instead of university textbooks when starting. In doing so, you will feel less intimidated by the topics you should learn.

Second, focus on the basics: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Learn how to use them correctly in sentences and understand their meaning. It will help you build a strong foundation for your English language learning journey. Divide those topics into subtopics and learn each concept and rule one by one.

Third, find a reliable source of learning materials. Online resources such as websites, blogs, and YouTube videos are mostly free. LillyPad’s blog, for example, is a great resource for English language learning materials. Additionally, you can find books and other printed materials in your local library or bookstore.

Fourth, practice speaking the language with native speakers or other English learners. It will help you understand how to use the language correctly in conversations and improve your pronunciation.

Finally, be patient with yourself and don’t give up. Learning a language takes time and effort, so set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand to use quotation marks and the comma.

Common Errors Made by English Learners

Learning a new language can be difficult, and English is no exception. Even experienced English learners make mistakes when speaking or writing in the language. Here are some of the most common mistakes made by English learners:

Common MistakeWhy it HappensCorrectionExamples
Using apostrophe with possessive personal pronouns yours, hers, ours, and theirs.Some learners use colloquial or informal English when instant messaging, wherein using an apostrophe with possessive pronouns is prevalent. Another reason why this mistake happens is the notion that words always have their possessive form.The possessive pronouns yours, hers, ours, and theirs do not need an apostrophe. They stand on their own.Incorrect:

This house is ours’.

That project is theirs’.

The car is hers’.


This house is ours.

That project is theirs.

The car is hers.
Using apostrophe to pluralize nounsModern instant messaging affects the leaner’s way of pluralizing words. Remember that an apostrophe cannot be used to make a noun plural. Instead, it shows possession or ownership.Word to consider: Farmer

Plural form: farmers and not farmer’s

Possessive form: farmer’s + [noun; e.g., carabao]

Word to consider: Daughter

Plural form: daughters and not daughter’s

Possessive form: daughter’s + [noun; e.g., room]
Confusing it’s and itsBoth it’s and its look similar but they have different meanings. When learners are unaware of this, they use them interchangeably.The meaning of “it’s” is “it is” and it shows verb tense, while “its” is a determiner showing possession.“It’s” examples:

It’s raining. or It is raining.

It’s done. or It is done.

“Its” examples:

The ring and its box are here.

The bird and its prey are fighting.
Apostrophes Common Errors Table
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Learning Apostrophe Strategies and Best Practices

A holistic approach to learning a language makes it easier to understand and remember. The five macro skills, reading, listening, viewing, speaking, and writing, should be developed and used in the learning process for better language acquisition. The table below lists activities you can do when learning linking verbs:

Learning Strategies
Reading– Use flashcards to know basic English sight words and their meaning.
– Search for material that contains translations of common expressions from your native language to English.
– Select study materials appropriate for your language proficiency.
Listening– Listen to an audiobook or a song and write what you hear to improve your retention of English words.
– Compare and contrast two audio materials like TV ads and a speech.
– Summarize a podcast, movie, audiobook, and other English audio materials.
Viewing– Observe how native speakers speak and try to mimic it.
– Watch English movies, interviews, and tutorials.
– Use pictographs to learn and remember new words.
Speaking– Join a community of English language learners and communicate with them to improve and gain feedback.
– Integrate the language into your daily life and try to speak using English.
– Participate in speech organizations (e.g. debate clubs, theatre groups)
Writing– Write a journal of your learning journey in English.
– Answer practice tests and create your own sentences.
– Create a reflection essay on the media you watch or listen to.
Apostrophes Learning Strategies Table
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Apostrophe Frequently Asked Questions

In order to use an apostrophe correctly in a sentence, you should consider the context of the sentence and its intended meaning. For example, if you want to make a word possessive, then you can use an apostrophe before the ‘s’. To create a contracted version of words, you can use an apostrophe to replace the omitted letters. For example, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is.”

It is important to use apostrophes correctly to ensure that the meaning of a sentence is clear. Incorrect usage of an apostrophe can lead to confusion and miscommunication, which can be detrimental in both professional and personal contexts. Therefore, it is important to understand how to correctly use an apostrophe in order to communicate effectively.

An apostrophe is often used to indicate ownership. For example, if you wanted to say that something belonged to someone or something, you could use an apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’. For example, “the child’s toy” indicates that the toy belongs to the child.

The four uses of an apostrophe is listed below:

1. To show possession
2. To contract words
3. To Pluralize letters and figures
4. To show tenses of abbreviated verbs 

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark used to indicate the possession, contraction, or pluralization of letters and figures. Examples of words with possessive apostrophes are: John’s violin, mother’s chicken curry recipe, and Sheila’s bag. “Haven’t,” “I’m,” and “can’t” are words contracted using an apostrophe. Pluralized letters and figures include 1960’s, P’s, and V’s.

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Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!

What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! Lilly’s a personal English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating!

Additionally, the platform incorporates goal-setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and significant cost savings compared to traditional tutoring methodologies.

At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

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Do you want to improve your English? Visit www.lillypad.ai.

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