Apostrophes to Form Possessives

By: Daniella Hill & Gabby Vargas

What is an Apostrophe?

An apostrophe is used to indicate the omission of a letter from a word, the possessive case, or the plurals of numbers, letters, and abbreviations.

Rules for the Correct use of the Apostrophe.

Apostrophe Rules

1. To indicate the possessive

2. To indicate missing letters.

3. Sometimes to indicate the structure of unusual words.

To indicate the possessive.

  • This is Peter's book.
  • This book is Peter's.
  • The dog's dinner looks disgusting.
  • Diana was the people's princess.
  • I tore up the men's shirts.
  • One should choose one's words carefully.
  • It is everyone's duty to protest.
  • It is no-one's responsibility.

Personal pronouns (words like I, you, he, she, it, we, they) indicate the possessive by becoming a whole new word. These new words are already possessive, so they don't need an apostrophe:my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs. Note that none of them has an apostrophe.

  • The house is yours.
  • The dog broke its leg.
  • She said the book was hers.
  • They claimed it was theirs.
  • But really it was ours.

It's means it is or it has. There's no such word as its'.

Where Do I Put the Apostrophe?

The apostrophe goes directly after the thing doing the possessing:

  • The sun's rays = the rays of the sun.
  • The table's leg = the leg of the table.
  • The archbishop's palace = the palace of the archbishop.
  • The archbishops' palace = the palace of the archbishops.
  • The men's shirts = the shirts of the men.
  • Children's T-shirts = T-shirts of children.
  • The people's princess = the princess of the people.
  • The American peoples' inheritance = the inheritance of the American peoples.
  • My mother's photo = photo of my mother.
  • One week's notice = notice of one week.
  • Two weeks' notice = notice of two weeks.
  • Three years' experience = experience of three years.
  • Everyone's help = help of everyone.

Note that we can often use for instead of of – shirts for the men. The possessive is much a looser concept than ownership: the girls may not own the school, but it's still a girls' school.