The apostrophe is a possessive kind of punctuation mark, but it’s also used in another way. When we leave something out of a word or phrase, the apostrophe marks the place where it was left out. We use this in everyday speech without even thinking about it.
Put another way, apostrophes are used to show contractions. Here are six types of contractions we use every day:
- Verbs where not is shortened: aren’t; can’t; couldn’t; don’t; doesn’t; hasn’t; haven’t; isn’t; wasn’t; weren’t; won’t; wouldn’t
- Pronouns where will is shortened: I’ll; you’ll; he’ll; she’ll; they’ll. This is also used when speaking with names: Doug’ll be home soon
- Contractions of the verb to be: I’m, you’re; who’s; he’s; she’s; it’s; we’re; they’re
- Contractions of the verb to have: I’ve; he’s; you’ve; they’ve
- Contractions with would or had: I’d; she’d, he’d; we’d; you’d; they’d
- Let’s for let us
There are four common cases where it is easy to get confused.
- It’s has an apostrophe when it stands for it is; when it is possessive, the correct form is its
- Who’s stands for who is or who has; the possessive is whose
- You’re stands for you are; the possessive is your
- They’re stands for they are; the possessive is their
Of course, we use the apostrophe for other contractions as well. If you have ever said: “I shouldn’t’ve done that”, then you already know how to use the apostrophe.
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