When to Use an Apostrophe

Hey guys! Welcome to this video on the apostrophe. The apostrophe gets wildly misused, and always has. Poor guy.

In order to help you not misuse our friend the apostrophe, let’s go over the three main uses: contractions, plurals, and possessives.


First, let’s take a look at contractions. Contractions such as he’s, wouldn’t, didn’t, and so on. Contractions are sometimes looked down on. Some would say that they should never be included when writing formally. Maybe, maybe not. However, you should be sure to check the requirements for whatever if you are writing for a teacher, professor, or even publisher. On the other hand, it’s important to keep in mind that using contractions can make your writing feel more personal. It can help your audience to feel like you are talking to them, and not talking at them.

It’s vs. Its

You always use an apostrophe when working with contractions. Possibly the most confusing, due to it being to most common apostrophe error, is the word it’s. Again, always use an apostrophe when you have a contraction. So, you use an apostrophe when you are abbreviating it is or it has to it’s. Always. If you don’t use an apostrophe, then you have changed the meaning of what you are saying. The its without an apostrophe symbolizes ownership.

Here is an example of the contraction it’s in a sentence:

It’s so pretty outside today.

Year Abbreviations

Also, when you are abbreviating the year something took place to the last two digits, this would be considered a contraction. So, you need an apostrophe. The apostrophe is placed to the front of the two digits. Now, in formal writing, you will typically be expected to write out the whole year. Some examples would be “class of ‘78,” and “It was acceptable in the ‘80s.”


You will rarely use an apostrophe for a plural noun. Now, remember, we talked about this reason already. Using an apostrophe on a noun signifies ownership of something, but If you are just trying to imply that there are multiples of something then you would not use an apostrophe. Let’s look at an incorrect example and a correct example.

Incorrect: In the early 1970’s, both of the Johnson’s earned PhD’s.
Correct: In the early 1970s, both of the Johnsons earned PhDs.

Now, keep in mind that I said that it is rare, but there is always that one exception to the rule. The exception to this rule is when a contraction is used as a noun.

He received four A’s and two B’s.
Have we received more yes’s or no’s?


It’s important to note that there is some variation when it comes to rules on possessives, depending on who has the authority. For instance, when writing for a newspaper or other types of media there may be some variation, but generally, the rules are pretty consistent everywhere else.

Now, let’s take a look at what the possessive rule is. The rule goes like this: When you have a singular noun that is signifying possession, then an apostrophe and an s need to follow it. Even if the singular noun already ends in s.

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 an s, then you would just add an apostrophe and not the extra s, but if the plural noun does not already end in s then you would add an apostrophe followed by an s.

Mr. Thomas’ new car
The three actresses’ scripts

Exception to the Rule

Again, there is always an exception to the rule. So, let’s take a look at that.

Use an apostrophe when dealing with specifically singular places and names that make a plural ending AND end in s.

Hopefully, some examples will help to clear up any confusion.

Beverly Hills’ industrial layout
The United States’ political model
Efficient Systems’ owner

I hope that this video was helpful.

See you guys next time!



by Mometrix Test Preparation | Last Updated: September 6, 2021