Using Apostrophes

How do you use apostrophes? While a common form of punctuation, apostrophes have multiple uses, which makes them hard for even native English speakers to always use correctly. Learn to identify these errors, and make an effort to avoid making them in your own speech and writing.

Using Apostrophes to Form Contractions and Show Possession

In English, the apostrophe has two uses. The first is to form contractions:

I can’t [cannot] make it to the party because I have to work.

Tara won’t [will not] be home until later this evening.

The second is to show possession:

Is that Camilo’s car across the street?

The students’ grades will be posted on Friday.

An apostrophe is almost never used to make a word plural:

Only three student’s attended the class yesterday. (Incorrect)

Only three students attended the class on yesterday. (Correct)

Special Cases

When showing possession for words that end in s, the general rule is to add only an apostrophe at the end.

I like Chris’s car. (Incorrect)

I like Chris’ car. (Correct)

The Joneses’ house is so beautiful and modern!

The United States’ defense budget was increased this year.

In summary, apostrophes are used to show possession and form contractions. While there are unique cases where apostrophe use can be tricky, they are the exception rather than the rule. If you need more information on punctuation use, grammar, or any other part of the English language, The English Island school in Atlanta teaches group and individual classes at all proficiency levels.