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Apostrophes are used for contractions and possessive nouns, a simple task that is often misunderstood.

  • Know How to Be Possessive.

Most words form their singular possessive by adding apostrophe-s. The biggest exception to that practice is with the name Jesus because most people don’t pronounce “geezusses” for the possessive form. If other names, ending with the s, sound weird to you with an added apostrophe-s, then leave off the ending s and use only the apostrophe. For plural possession, put only an apostrophe at the end of the s-ending words and an apostrophe-s after other plurals.

  1. Aren’t Texas’s Texas summers hot? (When an adjective works better than a possessive noun, use it.)
  2. Jesus’s Jesus’ words deserve thoughtful consideration.
  3. James’ James’s new restaurant serves great steaks.
  4. The men’s ballgame was rained out.
  5. The actress’s part was short. (One actress had only a few lines.)
  6. The three actresses’ part was short. (Three actresses had a part in one short scene.)
  7. How do you determine it’s its battery life? (None of the possessive pronouns, his, hers, its, their, theirs, ours, yours, whose, have an apostrophe.)
  8. It was Jack and Jill’s turn to go up the hill. (Jack and Jill possess the turn together).
  9. It was Jack’s and Jill’s turns to go up the hill. (Next, Jack and Jill each had a turn.)
  10. The soldier had two week’s weeks’ leave from the army.
  11. Suzie was five month’s months old. (Months is an adjective, not a possessive noun.)
  12. His uncle had nine cat’s cats and three dog’s dogs. (Never use an apostrophe to form a word’s plural.)
  13. Don had seven A’s and two B’s on his report card. (Use an apostrophe to form plurals of single letters and numbers.)
  14. At two year’s years old, Sally could recite her ABC’s ABCs.
  • Write like You Talk.

In ancient English, possessive nouns didn’t exist. The possessive pronoun was used. If the book belonged to John, people would say, “A neighbor borrowed John his book.” As the language evolved, “John his book” became “John’s book” because that’s the way people talked. An apostrophe is used to contract the meaning of two words into a single word that matches the way we talk.

  1. Don’t you want to go? (Few native-born Americans would say, “Do not you want to go?”)
  2. I know your you’re right. (Don’t use the pronoun when your meaning is “you are.”)
  3. Caleb can’t go ’cause he’s got somethin’ to do. (Notice the curve of the apostrophe used to indicate the missing first two letters of because. Most word processing software will create an opening single quote, which curves the wrong direction. Type two single quotes at the beginning, then delete the first to get the correct shape.)