When to Use an Apostrophe

Apostrophes Video

Hi, and welcome to this video on apostrophes! As I’m sure you know, the apostrophe is often misused, so in order to clear things up and help you use it correctly, we’ll be looking over how they’re used in contractions, plurals, and possessives. Let’s get started!

First, let’s take a look at contractions. A contraction is a single word that is made up of two or more words that have been joined by an apostrophe. For example, the word don’t is a contraction of the words do and not. Notice that the word not lost its “O” when it got joined with do. We make note that there used to be a letter there by putting the apostrophe in its place. The same goes for words like he’s, would’ve, and y’all. The apostrophe takes the place of the i in is, the ha in have, and the ou in you.

When you are abbreviating a year to the last two digits, that would be considered a contraction. So, you need an apostrophe to replace the first two digits you removed.

Class of ‘78

I like listening to music from the ‘80s.


One of the most common misuses of the apostrophe occurs with the word its. When the word is a contraction, you use an apostrophe. For example, “It’s very cold outside.” But, when the word is being used as a possessive pronoun, it should not include an apostrophe. Why? Because you aren’t joining two words together. In the sentence “The dog chased its tail,” you aren’t saying “the dog chased it is tail,” so there is no reason to add an apostrophe.

Now that we’ve looked at contractions, let’s take a look at plurals. If you are trying to imply that there are multiples of something, then you would not use an apostrophe. Take this sentence, for example:

In the early 1970’s, both of the Johnson’s earned PhD’s.


Are these apostrophes taking the place of anything? In this case, no, so we can remove all three apostrophes from this sentence.

Now, keep in mind that most things in English will have at least one exception, and plurals not containing apostrophes is one of those things. The rare exception here is when you are pluralizing single letters. For example:

He received four A’s and two B’s.

You can now replace the x’s and y’s in the equation.


Since these are single letters, we add the apostrophe to pluralize them.

Now, let’s finish up by talking about possessives. When you have a singular noun that is signifying possession, add an apostrophe and an s to the end of it, even if the singular noun already ends in s. For example:

The doctor’s bill

The kid’s shoe

Bob Carl’s number-one hit

The class’s theme


However, when showing possession of a plural noun that already ends in s, you would just add an apostrophe and not the extra s.

The three actresses’ scripts


If the plural noun does not already end in s, then you would add an apostrophe followed by an s.

All of the children’s toys


Now, there is an exception to this rule.

When the singular form of a noun ending in s is the same as the plural, the possessives of both are formed by the addition of an apostrophe only. Here’s what this looks like:

politics’ true meaning

economics’ forerunners

this species’ first record


The word politics is singular and ends with the letter s. Since the plural form of the word also ends with s, we place an apostrophe at the end to make it possessive. The same goes for economics and species.

I hope that this video was helpful! Thanks for watching, and happy studying!

Frequently Asked Questions


What is an apostrophe?


An apostrophe (‘) is a mark that is used to show possession or the absence of letters in a contraction. Here are examples of each usage:

“This is Clara’s jacket.”
“I can’t remember what time the show starts.”


When do you use an apostrophe?


An apostrophe is used to show possession or the absence of letters in a contraction. Here are examples of each usage:

“The tiger’s claws are very sharp.”
“These shoes aren’t very comfortable.”


When do you put an apostrophe after s?


After the s of a plural noun or pronoun, add an apostrophe to show possession. Here are a couple of examples:

“Astronomers study the planets’ orbits.”
“All of the students’ grades were better than expected this semester.”


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by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: August 2, 2023