English Grammar Basic Grammar and syntax

How do you use the apostrophe in English?

How do you use the apostrophe in English?

The apostrophe is the most misused punctuation mark in English. Even native English speakers sometimes make the mistake of using the apostrophe incorrectly. Let’s understand when to use the apostrophe in English and what are the common mistakes most people make with apostrophes.

A) We use an apostrophe in contractions.

We can use the apostrophe to contract the following:

  1. A subject and a verb
  2. An auxiliary verb and a modal auxiliary verb
  3. an auxiliary verb and NOT

Use the apostrophe to contract the subject and the helping verb

  • They’relistening to me.
  • Rohan’sgone crazy.
  • You’veworked very hard.
  • I’llcall you in some time.

The apostrophe here shows that a letter(s) is missing in the contraction.

Use the apostrophe to contract the helping verb and a modal auxiliary verb

  • We would’ve saved him.
  • He might’ve been sleeping.
  • You should’ve called me before going there.

Use the apostrophe to contract the helping verb and negation (not)

  • We aren’t ready to move.
  • He won’t win the match.
  • Jon hasn’t called me yet.
Complete expressions Contractions
Is + not
are + not
am + not
Has + not
Have + not
Had + not
Will + not (modal + not)
won’t, mustn’t, can’t, couldn’t, shouldn’t
He + is
She + is
It + is
I + am
You are
We are
They are
It is or It would
He is or He would
She is or She would
I would or I had
You would or You had
He had or He had
She had or She had


  • You’redoing it well.
  • They’vegone to a hill station.
  • Imight’vemade a mistake.
  • We could’vesaved his life.
  • Ronisn’tcoming to the class today.

Here, the apostrophe indicates where the letter(s) are missing in the contraction.

B) To show possession of a noun.

The apostrophe is used to indicate the possession of a noun. To show possession of a singular noun, we use ‘the apostrophe’ + ‘s’ (‘s) after the noun.


  • Sam’s house is huge.

Alternative: The house that belongs to Sam is huge.

  • I don’t like your brother’s attitude.

Alternative: I don’t like the attitude of your brother.

More examples:

  • His father’s shop is closed today.
  • Rohan’s dog is with me.
  • He is studying in Goa’s best school.

Note that if the singular noun is ending with the letter ‘S’, we may or may not use the letter ‘S’ after the apostrophe (‘s).

  • Charles’ brother is a doctor.
  • It’s almost impossible to break Jon Jones’ record.
  • None of us is going to James’s party.

Some teachers may tell you not to use ‘s’ after a noun ending with the letter ‘s’ to show your possession, but it is grammatically correct to do so. Common practice is not to use ‘s’ after, but we can. Whatever you choose, be consistent with that in your writing.

Most plural nouns end with the letter ‘s’. To show their possession, just use the apostrophe after them.

  • This is a boys’ school. You can’t study here.
  • The ladies’ room was beautiful.
  • She has met my friends’ parents.

Some plural nouns don’t end with the letter ‘s’, and we use ‘the apostrophe + s’ after them (‘s).

Plural nouns that don’t end with ‘s’

Singular nouns Plural nouns
Man Men
Woman Women
Person People
Child Children


  • Everyone calls him people’s champ.
  • The men’s toilet is on the left.

Compound nouns and the apostrophe


Certain compound nouns do not form their possessive case by adding ‘s’ to the end of the word. Study the following examples:

  • His mother-in-law’s school is famous for quality education.
  • My brother-in-law’s friends are crazy.
  • My brothers-in-law’s wives are very supportive. (The compound noun is plural. There is more than one brother-in-law and their possession is their individual wives.)

Pero usar el apóstrofe al final del primer sustantivo será un error.

  • His mother’s-in-law school is famous for quality education. ❌
  • My brother’s-in-law friends are crazy. ❌

Apostrophes with joined possession (compound nouns)

If the compound noun involves more than one person, and they share ownership with the same object, the apostrophe goes at the end of the last noun (person).


  • Jon and Max’s business is doing well. (The business is owned by both Jon and Max)
  • Monu and Radhika’s wedding is on December 10. (They both are getting married on the date)

But if the object each person in the compound noun possesses is different, use a plural noun after the compound noun.

  • Ashish and Rohan’s schools are very different in terms of how they teach students. (They both have different school)
  • Monu and Radhika’s weddings are getting canceled. (They both have different weddings)

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