The Possessive Apostrophe
It’s time to talk about being possessive. Sometimes possessiveness is good, sometimes it’s bad. However you look at it, if you’re speaking English, then you will need an apostrophe to show who owns what.
The apostrophe (‘) is one of the most used and misused English punctuation marks. No one is ever quite sure where to put it. You can use it when things are left out (contractions), but it’s the possessiveness that causes the most trouble.
The apostrophe is all about making a statement of ownership. You belong to me. This belongs to that. In grammar speak, the apostrophe shows the possessive of nouns.
There are four ways to use the apostrophe to show ownership or belonging.
1. Add apostrophe s to the end of a singular noun that does not end in s:
- the manager’s room
2. Add apostrophe s to the end of a singular noun, even if it ends in s (this practice may vary in some places):
- Doris’s scarf
3. Add apostrophe s to the end of a plural noun that doesn’t end in s
- the children’s bag
4. If the plural noun ends in s, just add the apostrophe
- my friends’ car
Notice that possessive pronouns like yours, his, hers, ours, its and theirs are not followed by the apostrophe.
Finally, if you want to play around with it, Wikipedia has a list of four phrases illustrating how the apostrophe can literally change the meaning of sentences.
- my sister’s friend’s investments (I have one sister and she has one friend.)
- my sisters’ friends’ investments (I have many sisters and they have many friends.)
- my sisters’ friend’s investments (I have many sisters and they have one friend.)
- my sister’s friends’ investments (I have one sister and she has many friends.)
Want to improve your English in 5 minutes a day? Click here to subscribe and start receiving our writing tips and exercises via email every day.
Recommended Articles for You
Subscribe to Receive our Articles and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!