“Teacher! What are the use apostrophe grammar rules and where can I find them all in one place?” I heard them say. Well, you have come to the right place. I have compiled all the apostrophe rules here to help you become fluent in English.
Rule 1a, use an “apostrophe + s” to show possession of a singular noun.
The boy’s book.
A woman’s bag.
Mr. Brown’s golf clubs.
Rule 1b, if a common noun ends in s, add “apostrophe + s” to show possession.
A class’s students.
The boss’s car.
Rule 1c, if a pronoun ends in s, only add an apostrophe.
Mr. Adams’ job.
Always remember to place the apostrophe outside the word in question. In the case of Mr. Adams, it would be wrong to write Mr. Adam’s job because his name is not Mr. Adam! It is Mr. Adams’ job.
Rule 1d, sometimes you want to write the pronoun as it sounds in speech.
Mr. Adams’ job. (AD-uhmz correct)
Mr. Adams’s job. (AD-uhmziz correct)
The only difference here would be the way the word is spoken. Is it Mr. Adams’ (AD-uhmz) or Mr. Adams’s (AD-uhmziz)? Take your pick but remember that the rule for a person’s name is often up to the family.
Rule 2a, put an apostrophe after the s to show plural possession.
The boys’ team. (many boys have a team)
The boy’s team. (one boy has a team)
Three waitresses’ orders. (waitress + es + apostrophe)
Rule 2b, DON’T use an apostrophe + s to make regular nouns plural.
Cat’s are cute.
Cats are cute. (correct)
The box’s are full.
The boxes are full. (correct)
Rule 2c, use “apostrophe +s” when talking about single letters.
His as look like us.
His a’s look like u’s. (correct)
This is a special case because the alternative is too confusing.
Rule 3, Irregular Nouns
Irregular nouns (foot, child, mouse) become plural by changing their spelling, sometime becoming very different words. The rule is to add “apostrophe s” after the plural irregular noun.
One child’s books. (singular)
Two children’s books. (plural)
NOT: Two childrens’ books.
The foot’s toes. (singular)
The feet’s toes. (plural)
NOT: The feets’ toes.
Rule 4a, be careful with possessive plurals of proper names ending in s, Adams, Jones, etc.
If you are a guest of the Baker family, the Bakers, you are the Bakers’ guest. BUT if a family name ends in “s”, we add “es” to make it plural.
The Adams family become the Adamses.
Because the Adam family are the Adams!
The Adamses’ house belongs to the Adams family.
The Jones’ dog belongs to the Jone family.
The Joneses’ dog belongs to the Jones family.
Rule 4b, NEVER use an apostrophe to make a name plural.
Did you visit the Smith’s?
Did you visit the Smiths?
The Jones’s are here.
The Joneses are here.
Rule 5a, if two people possess the same thing, put the “apostrophe + s” after the second name only.
John’s and Jane’s garden is full of flowers.
John and Jane’s garden is full of flowers.
BUT if one of the owners is written as a pronoun, use the possessive form of both.
Mine and Jane’s garden.
Jane’s and my garden.
His and Jane’s garden.
Jane’s and your garden.
Note: Use possessive adjectives, my your, her, our, their, etc.
Rule 5b, in cases of separate ownership use the possessive form for both.
Jane’s and Sarah’s gardens are full of flowers.
(They each have a garden which is full of flowers)
Jane and John’s gardens are full of flowers.
(The gardens belong to both of them)
Rule 6, use an apostrophe with contractions. The apostrophe replaces the missing letter.
it’s, means it is
can’t, means can not
would’ve, means would have
doesn’t, means does not
Rule 7, its or it’s
It’s means it is – (it’s a contraction)
Never use an apostrophe for the personal pronouns its, hers, ours, yours, whose, theirs, etc.
It’s an apostrophe. (It is an apostrophe)
Its rules are explained on this page.
(Apostrophe rules are explained on this page)
Thanks and Enjoy!
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