The apostrophe has two main uses.
When letters are left out
When two words are combined into one word, an apostrophe is used in the place of the letter which has been left out. Example: has not becomes hasn't. These forms can be used in informal writing and in direct speech (conversation). They are not generally used in formal text but you can use them in fiction and personal writing if that is the style you like.
ain't is slang for has not
aren't = are not
can't = can not, cannot
couldn't = could not
didn't = did not
doesn't = does not
don't = do not
hadn't = had not
hasn't = has not
isn't = has not
mustn't = must not
needn't = need not
shan't = shall not
shouldn't = should not
wasn't = was not
weren't = were not
won't = will not
wouldn't = would not
An apostrophe is used when writing about something that belongs to something else. This is call "possessive". Examples:
The horse's ear = the ear of the horse
The horse's ears = the ears of the horse
The cat's whisker = the whisker of the cat
The cat's whiskers = the whiskers of the cat
In the above examples, there is one subject, that is, one horse and one cat. If there is more than one subject, the apostrophe is placed after the final letters.
The horses' ears = the ears of the horses
The cats' whiskers = the whiskers of the cats
Horses is the plural of horse. Some words have special plurals, for instance: child/children, man/men, woman/women. The apostrophe is used differently because the word does not have a letter to show that it is plural.
The child's toy = the toy of the child
The child's toys = the toys of the child
The children's toys = the toys of the children
The men's voices = the voices of the men
The women's decision = the decision of the women
Its and it's
These two words present a problem. They are not dealt with in the same way as the above examples.
its = belonging to it
it's = it is
its' is never used, because you cannot have more than one 'it'.
The cat licked its whiskers. What is it? It's a cat. It's a cat licking its whiskers.
Your and you're
A very common mistake in written English is to confuse your and you're. This is because they sound the same when we say them aloud.
The first indicates a possessive, as in I like your hair, Where is your book?
The second is a contracted form of you are, as in You're brushing your hair, You're reading your book.
You do not make a plural by adding 's to a word.
tomato's and tomatoe's are wrong.
tomatoes is correct.
We saw a lot of computer's is wrong.
We saw a lot of computers is right.
We saw the computer's keyboard is correct. The possessive 's refers to the keyboard
We saw the computers' keyboards is correct. It means We saw the keyboards which belonged to the computers.
PC is short of personal computer. DVD is short for digital video disk. How do you write shortened version like this in the plural? There is no correct way. It depends on the style which is used in the place where you live. Ask your mentor, teacher or tutor for advice, or consult an official style manual (a book which gives the official rules for your part of the world).
PC = personal computer. PCs or PC's = personal computers.
VCR = video cassette recorder. VCRs or VCR's = video cassette recorders.
Back to Home Page