Apostrophe - Explore What It Is, Its Functions and How to Use It in Writing

Learning grammar is my sister’s favourite thing to do. Are you someone who enjoys learning grammar too? Well, even if you aren’t, here’s something you will have fun learning. Punctuation marks determine the clarity of your writing. In order to be able to convey your thoughts to your audience in a way that you want them to perceive and understand, it is important that you use the right punctuation marks in the right places. In this article, you will learn what an apostrophe is, how it functions and the different ways in which it can be used in the English language. Furthermore, you can analyse the examples given in the article for an in-depth understanding of the same.

Table of Contents

What is an Apostrophe? – Meaning and Definition

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that is mainly used to show possession or ownership of something or someone. It can also be used to form contractions and to indicate missing letters and numbers. It is indicated by the symbol . According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, an apostrophe is defined as the mark ( ’ ) used to show that one or more letters or numbers have been left out, as in she’s for she is and ’63 for 1963.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines an apostrophe as “the symbol ’ used in writing to show when a letter or a number has been left out, as in I’m (= I am) or ’85 (= 1985), or that is used before or after s to show possession, as in Helen’s house or babies’ hands”.

An apostrophe, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is defined as “a mark ‘ used to indicate the omission of letters or figures, the possessive case (as in “John’s book”), or the plural of letters or figures (as in ‘the 1960’s’)”. The Collins Dictionary defines an apostrophe as “the mark ‘ when it is written to indicate that one or more letters have been left out of a word, as in ‘isn’t’ and ‘we’ll’. It is also added to nouns to form possessives, as in ‘Mike’s car’.”

How to Use an Apostrophe? – Rules and Points to Remember

An apostrophe can be said to be multi-functional. The primary function of an apostrophe is to indicate the ownership of some object or some person by another. Other functions include indicating the plural form of letters and numbers; denoting a missing number or letter and also to form contractions.

There are just a few points you need to keep in mind when using an apostrophe to perform the various functions. Take a look at the following points to learn what they are.

  • The apostrophe, when used to show possession or ownership, should be placed just immediately after the noun or pronoun which is the owner of the mentioned object or person, followed by an ‘s’.
  • If the noun or pronoun already has ‘s’ as its last letter, the apostrophe comes after the letter ‘s’. Also, in this case, you need not add another ‘s’ after the apostrophe as it is already understood.
  • Another rule of using the apostrophe to show possession is that you should add an apostrophe and an ‘s’ only to the second word in a hyphenated compound word.
  • Also, if two or more nouns show separate ownership, you can use apostrophes for both the nouns. On the other hand, if both the nouns or pronouns own the same thing, use an apostrophe and an ‘s’ at the end of the latter noun or pronoun.
  • When using an apostrophe to indicate a missing letter or a number, the apostrophe is placed exactly in the space where the letter is missing. Also, remember that even if more than one letter or number is missing, you should add only one apostrophe and not as many apostrophes as the missing numbers or letters.
  • An apostrophe can be used to form contractions like can’t, I’m, don’t, etc. In these contractions too, the apostrophe is placed in between the letters where the letters are missing.

Examples of Words and Sentences Using an Apostrophe

Apostrophes can be seen to perform different functions. Take a look at the examples given below and analyse how an apostrophe performs its various functions.

Use of an Apostrophe to Show Possession

  • Everyone keeps telling me that I am my mom’s daughter in every way.
  • Rincy’s dog went missing yesterday.
  • Did you find his bike’s keys?
  • Susan’s father got a job in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Are you the teacher’s pet?

Use of an Apostrophe to Form Contractions

  • Don’t you think you can finish it by next week?
  • They weren’t at the hotel.
  • I’m willing to help you out with your project if you wish.
  • Shouldn’t they be here by now?
  • She kept saying that it wasn’t her fault.

Use of an Apostrophe to Indicate Missing Letters and Numbers

  • We did it a li’l differently.
  • She was definitely o’er the top when the results were announced.
  • The kids of the ‘90s are different from every other generation.
  • From ‘89 ‘93, I was studying in Delhi.
  • I could not make it to the event ‘cause I was not keeping well.

Use of Apostrophe with Compound Nouns or Hyphenated Nouns to Show Possession

  • My mother-in-law’s brother came home today.
  • The fifteen-year-old’s parents were asked to meet the Principal.
  • Yesterday was my great-grandfather’s 100th birthday.
  • Everybody loved my great-grandmother’s recipe of chocolate brownies.
  • My would-be’s plan to come meet me changed because of the rains.

Use of Apostrophes in Literature

  • Example 1:

William Wordsworth, in his poem, ‘Daffodils’, uses an apostrophe in the word o’er to denote the missing letter ‘v’.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,”

  • Example 2:

William Shakespeare, in his famous play, uses the apostrophe to show possession by referring to Brutus as ‘Caesar’s angel’.

“For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel:”

Common Verb Contractions for Everyday Use

We do not often realise that we use a lot of contractions in everyday language. Even in our written language, we use a lot of verb contractions. Check out the table given below for the most commonly used contractions in everyday conversation.

Verb Contractions Used in Daily Language

Contraction

Expanded Usage

I’m

I am

Can’t

Cannot

Don’t

Do not

Didn’t

Did not

Won’t

Will not

Shan’t

Shall not

Aren’t

Are not

Isn’t

Is not

Weren’t

Were not

Hasn’t

Has not

Haven’t

Have not

Hadn’t

Had not

Wasn’t

Was not

Wouldn’t

Would not

Couldn’t

Could not

She’d

She had

He’d

He had

She’s

She is/ She has

He’s

He is/ He has

It’s

It is

We’d

We had

They’ve

They have

We’ve

We have

I’ve

I have

Check Your Understanding of the Usage of Apostrophe

Go through the following sentences and use an apostrophe wherever necessary.

1. Tinas sister is a doctor.

2. All the 1s move to the right and all the 2s move to the left.

3. It felt as if we were flying oer the rainbow.

4. Cant you try it out once more?

5. They didnt appreciate the help.

6. How do you decide if you want to read a book or not? By the books cover or title?

7. The number 13s influence on my life is unlike what people usually say.

8. My moms face was glowing from the happiness within her heart.

9. The final teams performance moved my heart.

10. It was nobodys fault that the tap broke.

Check out if you used the apostrophe in the right places from the sentences given below.

1. Tina’s sister is a doctor.

2. All the 1s move to the right and all the 2s move to the left.

3. It felt as if we were flying o’er the rainbow.

4. Can’t you try it out once more?

5. They didn’t appreciate the help.

6. How do you decide if you want to read a book or not? By the book’s cover or title?

7. The number 13’s influence on my life is unlike what people usually say.

8. My mom’s face was glowing from the happiness within her heart.

9. The final team’s performance moved my heart.

10. It was nobody’s fault that the tap broke.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Usage of Apostrophe

What is an apostrophe?

An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that is mainly used to show possession or ownership of something or someone. It can also be used to form contractions and to indicate missing letters and numbers. It is indicated by the symbol ’.

What is the definition of an apostrophe?

According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, an apostrophe is defined as the mark ( ’ ) used to show that one or more letters or numbers have been left out, as in she’s for she is and ’63 for 1963.” The Cambridge Dictionary defines an apostrophe as “the symbol ’ used in writing to show when a letter or a number has been left out, as in I’m (= I am) or ’85 (= 1985), or that is used before or after s to show possession, as in Helen’s house or babies’ hands”.

Give some examples of the usage of apostrophes.

Here are a few examples to show you how an apostrophe can be used.

  • Yesterday was my great-grandfather’s 100th birthday.
  • She was definitely o’er the top when the results were announced.
  • The kids of the ‘90s are different from every other generation.
  • Everyone keeps telling me that I am my mom’s daughter in every way.
  • I’m willing to help you out with your project if you wish.

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