When to use an apostrophe in English
The apostrophe has three main uses in English. It indicates: contractions and missing letters, possession, and special plurals. Learn more about the apostrophe by clicking the tabs below.
Use an apostrophe to show the place of missing letters in a contracted form.
- it’s = it is/ it has
- she’d = she had/ she would
- can’t = cannot
- ’86 = 1986 (only in informal writing)
- I’m going to Mark’s house.
- The hairdresser’s salon was very busy today.
- The tram’s ticket machine broke down.
Names that end in -s can be followed by an apostrophe or an apostrophe + -s.
- Mr Jones’ house is number 56.
- Mr Jones’s house is on the left.
The -s in plural nouns is followed simply by an apostrophe.
- It is the best girls’ school in the country.
- The boys’ basketball team is on a winning streak.
To show shared possession, use apostrophe + s after the last name.
- Katie and Mark’s house
they own the house together
To show individual possession, use apostrophe + -s after each possessor .
- Katie’s and Mark’s houses were built in the same year.
they own a house each
Don’t use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns/determiners (yours, its etc).
- Has the dog had its walk? (not: …
- Is that red car yours? (not: …
An apostrophe is not usually used with plural nouns. However, an apostrophe is needed to avoid confusion with certain letters or numbers.
- May got her report card last week. She got three A’s, two B’s and two C’s. (not:
- How many 5’s can you see in the picture?