Apostrophe: Use & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Are Apostrophes?
  • 0:15 Using Apostrophes
  • 4:40 Common Mistakes
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
In this lesson, we will learn about the apostrophe and how it's useful to us. See a few examples of common apostrophe mistakes and learn how to correct them.

What Are Apostrophes?

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that shows where something has been removed. Using an apostrophe allows you to create better flow in your writing and speaking without losing any meaning. It is a very handy device.

Using Apostrophes

Apostrophes are mainly used to create contractions and to indicate possession. The term 'contraction' means 'to reduce the size of something.' In writing, a contraction is a longer word or phrase that has been reduced to a shorter word. Apostrophes are also used with non-possessive plurals to increase clarity.

Here are some examples of contractions:

  • 'Do not' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'don't'
  • 'Cannot' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'can't'

And here are some contractions in a sentence: 'I can't go, but I don't want you to go either.' Without contractions, the sentence is choppy: 'I cannot go, but I also do not want you to go either.'

More examples:

  • 'They are' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'they're'
  • 'We are' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'we're'
  • 'Let us' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'let's'
  • 'We will' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'we'll'
  • 'It is' = add an apostrophe to create the contraction 'it's'

Apostrophes also show possession to help avoid awkward phrasing.

Here's a sentence showing possession without an apostrophe: 'The laptop that Mark owns is on his desk.' Kind of awkward, right?

Here's that sentence with an apostrophe, which replaces 'the,' 'that,' and 'owns': 'Mark's laptop is on his desk. Much smoother.

Another example without an apostrophe: 'Are we going to the house that John owns first?' Very awkward!

Now let's see it with an apostrophe, which replaces 'the,' 'that,' and 'owns': 'Are we going to John's house first?' So much smoother.

Apostrophes can also replace a phrase: 'This hat belongs to David.' No apostrophe. 'This hat is David's.' The apostrophe replaces 'belongs to.'

One exception: The word 'it's' with an apostrophe refers to the contraction of 'it is.' The possessive form of it doesn't use an apostrophe: to distinguish between the two, we write 'its' instead.

Let's see that in a couple of sentences:

  • 'The dog buried its bone in Kathy's yard.'
  • 'My book is so old that its cover is falling off.'

You also use apostrophes for the plural forms of family names. When you're referring to several family members with the same last name, add an 's' and an apostrophe (s') to create the possessive form:

  • 'We'll take the Smiths' dog in our car.'
  • 'The Sampsons' lawn needs to be mowed.'

You can also use apostrophes for irregular plural possessives. For example, words like 'children' and 'women' are plural without using an 's.' When you write them in the possessive form, just add an apostrophe followed by an 's.'

  • 'Children's books should be read often.' Not 'childrens' books'
  • 'Women's wear is on the second floor.' Not 'womens' wear'

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