Using Apostrophes Correctly Study Guide
In this lesson, you will learn the two uses for apostrophes—to make contractions and to show possession—and when and how to use them properly.
THE POOR APOSTROPHE. It is one of the most commonly misused punctuation marks, often showing up where it simply isn't needed. There are only two uses for apostrophes: to make a contraction and to show possession. Never use an apostrophe to form the plural of a word.
The word contract (pronounced with the stress on the second syllable: con-TRACT) means to press together or to shorten. Contractions are words formed by pressing two words together, dropping one or more letters, and putting an apostrophe in the place of the omitted letter(s). This last part is the key point for you to learn: In a contraction, an apostrophe takes the place of one or more dropped letters.
For example, the words can and not can be written as the contraction can't. In this case, the apostrophe takes the place of the dropped letters n and o. Contractions are freely used in speech and in informal writing, but are discouraged in formal writing.
TIP: A contraction is a word that has been shortened by dropping some of the letters. An apostrophe is used in place of the dropped letters, as in didn't (did not) and they've (they have).
TIP: Never confuse it's with its. It's is a contraction of the words it is or it has. Its is the possessive form of the word it. Remember to use the apostrophe with the word it only when you can add the word is or has: it is or it has = it's.
A possessive noun indicates ownership of something by that person, place, or thing. The possessive is generally formed by adding an apostrophe and an s to the end of a word. Note the following rules (and exceptions!) for correctly signifying possession.
Singular noun: add 's
- Alanna's orange kite
- Alaska's state bird
- the book's cover
Singular noun ending in -ss: add 's
- the waitress's first shift
- the hostess's home
Plural noun ending in -s: add '
- the lawyers' bills
- the Smiths' new house
Irregular plural noun not ending in -s: add 's
- the children's toys
- the women's clothing
Compound noun: add 's to the end of the final word
- my mother-in-law's house
- the maid of honor's gown
Joint possession: add 's to the end of the final name
- Jennifer and David's car
- Amy, Barbara, and Allison's trip
Separate possession: add 's to the end of both names
- Suzette's and Veronica's clothes
- Jane's and Lisa's sons
Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:
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