English Learner Article Apostrophes

Summary: Learn about the use of the Apostrophe in English.

By: |Audience: All|Category: Punctuation


When do we use Apostrophes?

There are two basic uses of the apostrophe in English:

1 - To show that letters or numbers are missing.

In contractions, we use an apostrophe to indicate that a letter is missing:

  • Isn't = is not
  • '72 = 1972

2 - To show possession

If something belongs to a person or thing, we use an apostrophe to show ownership:

  • Jane's house is in a nice area. (The house belongs to Jane)

We put the apostrophe after the letter s in a plural:

  • The girls' mother collected them from school. (There were two or more girls)

NB: With irregular plurals, we put the apostrophe before the letter s:

  • The children's teacher was very popular.

The apostrophe with plurals

We very rarely use the apostrophe to show plurals and only under special circumstances:

  • Some people use them with acronyms (words made from the first letters of a phrase, like CD for Compact Disc)- CD's. Others do not use the apostrophe here.
  • Numbers- Some people write the 1990's and others write the 1990s.
  • To make a letter plural- mind your p's and q's (an expression meaning 'mind your manners')

Other than these circumstances, the apostrophe should not be used in plurals unless they are showing possession.

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