Possessive Apostrophe Rules
Writers who use unnecessary apostrophes or who omit necessary ones should remember that the apostrophe has two uses:
1. To indicate an omitted letter in a contraction (don’t, I’ll, etc.)
2. To indicate that a noun is possessive.
It is important, then, to remember where apostrophes should NOT be used:
1. To form the plural of a noun.
2. With any verb to which an s ending is added.
3. To form the possessive of any pronoun such as it. An exception is the indefinite pronoun (everyone, anyone, everybody, one, etc.)
rule for use of the apostrophe with an added s can be stated as a series
of questions. A “no” answer to
any point before the last question means that the answer to the last question is
Is the word to which s has been added either a noun or an
Is the word possessive?
Do I need an apostrophe?
Below are the rules for determining if a noun or indefinite
pronoun is possessive:
1. Indefinite pronouns: Since we never form the plural of these words, the only reason we would ever add an s to these words would be to make them possessive. Thus, you will always need an apostrophe before the s when you add an s to words like everyone or nobody (everyone’s, nobody’s).
2. Nouns: Watch for two nouns together. Check the first to see if it is possessive by substituting a possessive pronoun for it. Look for clues that the noun to which you have added an s is singular. Determiners like a and this will always tell you that the noun is singular; thus, the only reason you would have added the s would be to show possession.
My dog’s collar is made of brown leather.
If the noun is plural, it may also be possessive, but you may save time by eliminating further tests for singular nouns.
Example: The dogs’ collars are similar.
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This page last updated on 4/04/03.