How to use the apostrophe in written English

1. Use an apostrophe to indicate possession:

a.) With nouns (singular and plural ) that do not end with an s, add an apostrophe and s;

  • a salmon’s scales
  • sheep’s hooves
  • a cat’s tail

b.) With plural nouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe;

  • the cats’ tails
  • the managers’ duties

c.) With singular nouns that end with s, add either the apostrophe alone or both the apostrophe and s. Whichever method you choose, stick to it.

  • Charles’ hat OR Charles’s hat
  • Brussels’ population OR Brussels’s population

d.) If possession is common to two or more individuals, only the last name takes the apostrophe;

  • John and Jane’s car
  • Polly and Peter’s house

However, we make each noun possessive if possession is not common;

  • We sells men’s, women’s and children’s bikes.
  • We will read both John’s and Jane’s letters.

e.) Try to avoid using the possessive apostrophe in the following cases:

With inanimate objects

  • The Eiffel Tower’s lights
  • The lights of the Eiffel Tower

With titles

  • I enjoyed War and Peace’s ending
  • I enjoyed the ending of War and Peace

2. Use an apostrophe  in contractions to indicate missing letters and numbers:

  • can’t, won’t, it’s, the summer of ’92 ,etc.

3. Use an apostrophe with nouns followed by a gerund:

  • The old man’s swimming was still strong and fast.
  • The crowd loved Jane’s singing.




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