How To Use The Apostrophe
Posted by Ruth Graham


An apostrophe is to show possession (ownership) of something. Or to denote where a letter is missing. Here are some really easy ways to remember how to use them. 

First of all – when you go to insert an apostrophe into a word, ask yourself why. What are you putting it in for? Many people see an ‘s’ at the end of a word, panic, and think it has to have one. Absolutely not the case! 

If you are unsure of its use, then always check before dropping one into a word.

Here we go: To denote possession (something belonging to somebody). i.e:

The ball of the dog becomes the dog’s ball.
The handbag of the lady becomes the lady’s handbag.
The dinner of the child becomes the child’s dinner.

Test yourself if you’re not sure. Turn the sentence around like it is above. And then put it back, with the apostrophe in the right place. The dog, the lady, the child. Then the apostrophe, then the s. (The subject, then the object). 


If you are dealing with plural people – dogs (more than one), ladies (more than one), children (more than one) – then the apostrophe goes after the whole (pluralised word) i.e.: 

The dogs’ ball (one ball, belonging to lots of dogs)
The ladies’ bag (one bag belonging to lots of ladies)
The childrens’ dinner (one dinner, for several children) 

HOWEVER, it’s unlikely that several dogs, and ladies and children will be sharing the one item. So remember, if you are dealing with multiple dogs/ladies/people and multiple balls/handbags/dinners then the same rule applies:

 Just insert the apostrophe after the plural. That’s all you need to do in the apostrophe department,.
And then pluralise the objects you’re talking about – (put an ‘s’ on the ball(s), handbag(s), dinner(s) to denote more than one if it’s a regular plural). Or  if it’s an irregular plural, then you need to learn the endings individually. Either way, Just one apostrophe is needed. 

 I cringe when I see (for example) potatoe’s; Why? It’s a plural word. It means more than one potato. It doesn’t need an apostrophe (it’s actually saying POTATO IS) in this example.  

Another common one is ‘Show your dad’s how much you love them on father’s day’. (Show your Dad is how much you love them on father’s day)…. Really?! Again – it’s a plural – not something that has a letter missing. 

Get to grips with your plurals (more than one) and stop putting apostrophes in where they don’t need to be! 

Dog              dogs
Lady            ladies (irregular spelling)
Potato        potatoes (irregular spelling)
Dad              Dads
Fish             Fishes

  Just to hammer it home about plurals, some finish with just an ‘s’ on the end. Some have irregular endings. People often get confused by these endings, and think they need to apostrophize them. Not so – stick to the rules above, and you won’t go wrong. 


 We miss letters out in the English language because it’s easier to run words together than to say them in full: 

Don’t do that. (Do not do that)
Can’t you behave (Can you not behave?)
I Won’t (I will not)
I haven’t (I have not) etc 

When you run together two or more words, you need an apostrophe to show where the letter (or letters) are missing. Not after the word – in the word – where the natural conjunction would be. 

It’s (It is) a complicated subject, but really simple once you get to grips with it.  Don’t (Do not) give up too easily. The more you practice – the easier it gets.