Apostrophes (‘) can be confusing even for native speakers of English, but they aren’t difficult to master if you can remember a few apostrophe rules. Apostrophes in English serve two basic functions; they show possession, and they indicate that letters have been removed from the original words in the process of forming a contraction. They are not necessary for forming plural nouns or possessive adjectives (my, your, his, her, their, our, its). In the following story, you will see examples of apostrophes being used for both purposes. Pay close attention to where they are and what they’re doing as you read.
Robert and Lisa Jones have two beautiful children. Amy is nine and Ross is seven. The Joneses’ house has two floors. The children’s rooms are upstairs, and the parents’ bedroom is downstairs. Lisa’s room is always clean while Ross’s room is always messy. The Joneses’ lives are very busy this week. Ross’s sports teams all have games, Amy’s ballet class has a recital, and Robert’s car is in the shop, so the Joneses are trying to get everything done with only Lisa’s car. So far today, they’ve been to school, practice, rehearsal, the grocery store and the veterinarian’s office, and they aren’t finished yet. They’ll be busy until late tonight, and tomorrow, they’ll do it all again.
A lot of people get confused about when they need to use an apostrophe and when they don’t. Here are a few apostrophe rules to help you decide.
Use an apostrophe + S (‘s) to show that one person/thing owns or is a member of something.
Yes, even if the name ends in “s,” it is still correct to add an “‘s” to create the possessive form. It is also acceptable to add only an apostrophe to the end of singular nouns that end in “s” to make them possessive. In this case, that means “Ross’” would have the same meaning as “Ross’s.” It makes no difference whether the item owned is singular or plural. We use “Ross’s” to say that the room (singular) is his and that the sports teams (plural) are his.
Use an apostrophe after the “s” at the end of a plural noun to show possession.
It is not necessary to add another “s” to the end of a plural noun.
If a plural noun doesn’t end in “s,” add an “‘s” to create the possessive form.
*Remember, a possessive noun needs an apostrophe and an “s” at the end. If there’s already an “s” there, you can just add the apostrophe. If there’s no “s,” you have to add both - first the apostrophe, and then the “s.”
When you combine two words to make a contraction, you will always take out some letters. In their place, use an apostrophe.
Imagine you’re on a submarine that is diving deep into the ocean. As you dive deeper and deeper, the water pressure becomes greater. If you go too deep, the water will squeeze the submarine so hard that it will begin to leak, and you will need to put something into the hole to stop the leak. The same thing happens when you squeeze two words together. Something pops out. And wherever it comes out, you put an apostrophe in to plug the hole. The one exception to this rule is the contraction “won’t,” which is “will + not.” English apostrophe rules are not difficult to master. Just remember that all possessives need an apostrophe and an “s” at the end. If the word already has an “s,” it only needs an apostrophe. If the word does not already have an “s,” it needs the apostrophe followed by the “s.”
As for contractions, the only apostrophe rule you need to remember is the same rule you learned as a teenager when you snuck out of the house and put pillows under your sheets to make it look like you were still sleeping: If you take something out, replace it with something else. Then squish everything together so it looks like one body.
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