Chapter 3-6: The Apostrophe (')

You should use an apostrophe to form the possessive case of a noun or to show that you have left out letters in a contraction. Note that you should not generally use contractions in formal, academic writing.

    • The convertible's engine has finally died. (The noun "convertible's" is in the possessive case)

    • I haven't seen my roommate for two weeks. (The verb "haven't" is a contraction of "have not")

To form the possessive of a plural noun ending in "s," simply place an apostrophe after the "s."

    • He has his three sons' futures in mind.

    • In many suburbs, the houses' designs are too much alike.

Possessive pronouns -- for example, "hers," "yours," and "theirs" -- do not take apostrophes. This is the case for the possessive pronoun "its" as well: when you write "it's" with an apostrophe, you are writing a contraction for "it is."

    • The spaceship landed hard, damaging its radar receiver. ("its" is the possessive pronoun)

    • It's your mother on the phone. ("it's" is the contraction of "it is")

Abbreviation of a decade span -- in formal academic writing, it is not recommended to abbreviate decade spans. Instead, they should be written out in full. For example, “A lot of people smoked marijuana in the 1960s.” In less formal writing, an abbreviation can be used. Do not attempt to change the location of the apostrophe, nor the location of the letter ‘s’.

    • A lot of people smoked marijuana in the ‘60s.

    • A lot of people smoked marijuana in the Sixties. [note the capitalization of “Sixties”]

List of Common English Contractions

Click on the caron icon (˅) to the right to see a list of common English contractions.

Contraction ↦ Full Form

aren't ↦ are not

can't ↦ cannot

couldn't ↦ could not

didn't ↦ did not

doesn't ↦ does not

don't ↦ do not

hadn't ↦ had not

hasn't ↦ has not

haven't ↦ have not

he'd ↦ he had, he would

he'll ↦ he will, he shall

he's ↦ he is, he has

I'd ↦ I had, I would

I'll ↦ I will, I shall

I'm ↦ I am

I've ↦ I have

isn't ↦ is not

it's ↦ it is, it has

let's ↦ let us

mustn't ↦ must not

shan't ↦ shall not

she'd ↦ she had, she would

she'll ↦ she will, she shall

she's ↦ she is, she has

shouldn't ↦ should not

that's ↦ that is, that has

there's ↦ there is, there has

they'd ↦ they had, they would

they'll ↦ they will, they shall

they're ↦ they are

they've ↦ they have

we'd ↦ we had, we would

we're ↦ we are

we've ↦ we have

weren't ↦ were not

what'll ↦ what will, what shall

what're ↦ what are

what's ↦ what is, what has

what've ↦ what have

where's ↦ where is, where has

who'd ↦ who had, who would

who'll ↦ who will, who shall

who're ↦ who are

who's ↦ who is, who has

who've ↦ who have

won't ↦ will not

wouldn't ↦ would not

you'd ↦ you had, you would

you'll ↦ you will, you shall

you're ↦ you are

you've ↦ you have

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