The University of Sydney
The Write Site
Home Glossary Site map Help
Module 1: Grammar Module 2: Sources Module 3: Structure
Home » Module 1 Unit 6: Apostrophes » Using apostrophes - page 1/3
Unit 1: Sentence fragmentsUnit 2: Run-on sentences Unit 3: Subject-verb agreementUnit 4: TensesUnit 5: PassiveUnit 6: ApostrophesUnit 7: Articles

Using apostrophes

This section describes the uses of apostrophes to connect and shorten verbs and to express possession.

You probably know the rule already, but let's take a quick look at it.

The rule

print page print

Apostrophes are used in two ways:

  1. They indicate that two words have been joined together into a shortened form. The words being joined are usually:

    • a pronoun and a verb (e.g. we have - we've; he will - he'll)


    • a verb and the word not (e.g. do not - don't; has not - hasn't). These shortened forms are called 'contractions'.

  2. They indicate possession or ownership of the noun that comes after them in the sentence (e.g. the dog's tail; the people's choice; the tourists' luggage). These forms are called 'possessives'.

Three simple rules for possessives:

  • You use 's with singular nouns (e.g. the dog's tail).
  • You use s' with regular plural nouns when you want to show not only plurality but also ownership (e.g. the tourists' luggage).
  • You use 's with irregular plural nouns (e.g. the people's choice).