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The apostrophe () is a punctuation mark used in writing. It is a diacritic (a mark used with letters).

In English, it has two jobs:[1]

Examples[change | change source]

Its versus it's[change | change source]

The most common grammatical mistake in written English is to put it's where its is correct. Its: a possessive adjective and pronoun of the personal pronoun it.

  • The cat chased its tail. correct.
  • The tyre lost it's grip. Wrong.

It's: a contraction of the verbal phrase It is or It has.

  • It's mine. Correct; check: It is mine.
  • It's been here. Correct; check: It has been here.
  • The cat chased it's tail. Wrong; cannot be

expanded to It is.

The same applies to yours, theirs and ours because these are also possessive adjectives of personal pronouns.

  • The colour is ours.
  • That book is hers (or his).
  • Theirs was the responsibility.

Possession[change | change source]

Apostropes are also used to show something belongs to someone (or something). Again, correct uses can be expanded:

  • Mike's car. Correct: the car that belongs to Mike.
  • The dog's ball. Correct: the ball that belongs to the dog.
  • Those dog's are large. Wrong: cannot be expanded. Here "dogs" is a plural word.

The intrusive apostrophe[change | change source]

Comes in plurals which don't (do not) need it. Do not put an apostrophe in word ending in s, such as a plural. Put an apostrophe, or 's, at the end of the word instead.

  • Mrs. Jones' hat or Mrs. Jones's hat. Both correct.
  • Both of my parents' birthdays. Correct.
  • CD's and DVD's. Technically right but considered by many as wrong (see Plural section).
  • Apple's and pear's: wrong

Writing dialogue or titles[change | change source]

Apostrophes are also used when other words are shortened, as in slang:

  • Go get 'em tiger! or Li'l Bow Bow.

This is just a version of the abbreviation function.

Plural[change | change source]

To make a word that doesn't (does not) usually exist as a plural into a plural, an apostrophe is occasionally used. It is important to note that this is considered by many incorrect. For example:

  • How many A's did you get this year?
  • The poll received many yes's and very few no's.

References[change | change source]

  1. Quirk, Geenbaum, Leech & Svartvik, A comprehensive grammar of the English language. Longman, London & New York. p985 ISBN 0-582-51734-6