The apostrophe has two main functions: forming contractions and forming
possessives. In addition, some symbols and lower case letters form their
plurals with the addition of 's, for example, two t's, two 2's.
The apostrophe signals omission of one or more letters:
it's = it is
couldn't = could not
I'll = I will
Use the possesive form for the owner or possessor, not for the thing
possessed. Note that a possessive noun functions as an adjective.
the desk of George = George's desk
a vacation of two weeks = two weeks' vacation
payment for one day = one day's payment
Add apostrophe plus s ('s) to form the possessive of all singular
words except when pronunciation would be difficult. In those cases, place
an apostrophe at the end of the word (s').
the car of Ms. Jones = Ms. Jones's car
the dial on a phone = a phone's dial
a vacation of one week = a week's vacation
Exceptions: Jesus' teachings, Charles' xylophones
Since most nouns form their plurals with the addition of s, most plural
possessives add the apostrophe alone. Add apostrophe plus s ('s) to form
the possessive of a plural word only when the plural word does not end
1. To ensure correct formation of possessives, use a two-stage technique.
For clarity when handwriting with apostrophes, leave a space rather than
join letters separated by apostrophes.
a. First, establish the singular or
plural nature of the base word, for example, cow.
b. Second, form the possessive of the
base word, for example, cow's.
2. Do not use apostrophes to form the possessive of possessive pronouns;
they are already possessive in form: their, theirs, ours, its, her, hers
3. Be careful to distinguish between simple plurals, verbs ending in
s, and possessive forms:
Neither the horses nor the cow eats oats; in fact, the cow's favorite
food is carrot cake, and the horses' favorite food is candy.
August 4, 2003