By eContent Pro on Jan 26, 2017
An apostrophe is a punctuation mark that serves a variety of purposes. We have taken a look at each of the uses for apostrophes below.
Use an Apostrophe to Show Possession
To show the possession of a singular noun, simply add an apostrophe + s
Example: the cat’s scratching post
To show the possession of nouns that end in s, follow the rules below
- Rule 1: If word is plural, attach an apostrophe.
- Example: the cats’ carriers
- In this example, we are talking about different carriers for multiple cats.
- Rule 2: If word is singular, most sources recommend adding ‘s
- Example: the class’s project
In this example, we are discussing the project of one class.
If we were talking about multiple classes, our sentence would read: the classes’ project.
To show the possessive form of regular nouns that become plural by adding s or es, you will need to add an apostrophe after the final s in the word
Example: the fishes’ pond.
To create the possessive form of irregular nouns that become plural by changing spelling, the rule for adding an apostrophe will vary. We recommend that you write out the entire irregular plural noun before adding any punctuation
- Example: the books of the children
- Incorrect: the childrens’ books Correct: the children’s books
- In this example, the plural form of the word child does not have an s, so we will need to add an apostrophe + s to properly show that the children own the books.
- Example: the moose’s tracks
- Again, the plural form of moose is spelled the same, so we will need to add an apostrophe + s to show that the tracks came from the moose.
To show the possession of singular compound nouns, add an apostrophe + s at the end of the word
Example: This is my sister-in-law’s car.
To show the possession of a plural compound noun, first you will need to create the plural version of the noun. You will then add an apostrophe + s to the end of the noun
Example: We are going to my brothers-in-law’s house for the holidays.
To show the possessive plurals of proper names ending in s, such as Hastings and Jones
To show that a family named Hastings or Jones own something, such as a car or house, you will first need to make the name plural by adding an es to the end of the name. You cannot just add an apostrophe, as that will refer to a family named “Hasting” or “Jone.” Once you have made the name plural, you will be able to add an apostrophe to show the proper possession.
Incorrect: The Hastings’ new car. Correct: The Hastinges’ new car.
Incorrect: The Jones’ new house. Correct: The Joneses’ new house.
If two people possess the same item, put the apostrophe + s after the second name only. However, if one of the joint owners is written as a pronoun, you will need to use the possessive form for both
Incorrect: Laura and my home Incorrect: Mine and Laura's home
Correct: Laura's and my home Correct: Laura and Steve’s home.
Note: As our examples above demonstrate, when one of the co-owners is written as a pronoun, you will need to use possessive adjectives (my, your, her, our, their). You will want to avoid possessive pronouns (mine, yours, hers, ours, theirs) in such situations.
In cases of separate rather than joint possession, use the possessive form for both. You will want to ensure that you are using the plural form of the item that is possessed to show the separate possession
Example: We will be visiting Steve’s and Sarah’s homes on our road trip.
Amounts of time or money are sometimes used as possessive adjectives that require apostrophes.
Example: The military provides two weeks’ leave to soldiers. Example: That’s my two cents’ worth.
Beware of nouns ending in y. Do not show possession by changing the y to ies
Correct: the company's policy Incorrect: the companies policy
To show possession when a noun ending in y becomes plural, write ies'. Do not write y's
Correct: three companies' policies Incorrect: three company's policies
Exception: Names and other proper nouns ending in y become plural simply by adding an s. They do not form their plurals with an apostrophe, or by changing the y to ies.
Correct: The Westerlys are coming to dinner. Incorrect: The Westerly’s are coming over.
Correct: The Westerlys' dog had puppies. Incorrect: The Westerlies’ dog had puppies.
Use an Apostrophe to Show Contractions
You will need to use an apostrophe with contractions, or shortened forms of writing words. The apostrophe is placed where a letter or letters have been removed. Example: cannot -> can’t
Use an Apostrophe to Make Words Plural
There are various approaches to creating the plural form of many letters that appear on their own, as well as numerals. You can also use an apostrophe to create plural forms of some words. We have provided examples and further instruction on these items below.
Apostrophes After Letters
Many style guides recommend placing an apostrophe after single letters for the sake of clarity.
Example: He received all A’s on his report card. Example: Mind your p’s and q’s.
When you are writing groups of two or more capital letters, apostrophes are not as necessary to include.
Example: That child has learned his ABCs.
Apostrophes After Numerals
For clarity, apostrophes can be used with single digit numbers but are not necessary. We recommend using your judgement when determining whether you should include an apostrophe.
Example: I purchased the tickets in sets of 2s. Example: I purchased the tickets in sets of 2’s.
- Both of these examples are correct.
- When you are writing a double or triple digit number, as well as anything higher than triple digits, many style guides do not recommend the use of an apostrophe.
- Example: The temperature will be in the low 30s. Example:the 1990s Example: the '90s
Apostrophes for Plural Words
When you are forming a plural of a word that is not normally a noun, some style guides will recommend that you add an apostrophe for clarity.
Example: Here are some do's and don'ts.
Things to Keep in Mind When Using Apostrophes
Beware of false possessives, which often occur with nouns ending in s. Don't add apostrophes to noun-derived adjectives ending in s.
Incorrect: We enjoyed the New Orleans' cuisine. Correct: We enjoyed the New Orleans cuisine.
In this example, the incorrect sentence does not make sense unless New Orleans is being used as an adjective to describe cuisine. In English, nouns frequently become adjectives. Adjectives rarely if ever take apostrophes.
Incorrect: He's a United States' citizen. Correct: He's a United States citizen.
In this example, United States is an adjective that modifies citizen and as such should not receive an apostrophe.
Rules for Using Apostrophes
- Do not use an apostrophe + s to make a regular noun plural
- Never use an apostrophe to make a name plural
- The personal pronouns hers, ours, yours, theirs, its, whose, and the pronoun oneself never take an apostrophe.
- When an apostrophe comes before a word or number, be sure that it's truly an apostrophe (’) rather than a single quotation mark (‘). Some computers will change an apostrophe to a single quotation mark in this case.
Final Thoughts on Using Apostrophes
Apostrophes are a punctuation mark that can be used in a variety of ways. This also means that they have multiple rules that must be followed. If you are unsure of yourself when using apostrophes, let us help you.
Our professionally trained copy editing team will review your document and ensure that you have used apostrophes correctly, as well as look at many other grammar problems.
Learn more about our copy editing and proofreading services.
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How to Make Last Names Plural, Even When They End In "S"
With quite a few big holidays looming, many people are gearing up to send holiday greeting cards, so this is the perfect time to remind everyone how to make last names plural. (Hint: doing so does NOT involve an apostrophe.)
If we stop to think about it, most of us know that apostrophes make words possessive, not plural. But when we get in a hurry, it’s easy to make the mistake of using an apostrophe when we don’t need one.
Here’s how to make names plural when we sign holiday greeting cards or letters and in other situations that require plural names, such as when we personalize mailboxes and welcome mats.
Let’s See What You Already Know
Of the seven examples below, which ones are correct if the writer is sending greetings from more than one person with the same last name?
- Happy holidays from the Smith’s
- Happy holidays from the Williams’
- Happy holidays from the Smiths
- Happy holidays from the Williamses
- Happy holidays from the Smiths’
- Happy holidays from the Williamses’
- Happy holidays from the Williams family.
If you chose 3, 4, and 7, you can probably stop reading now. You’ve got this. But if not, read on.
Examples 1 and 2 are problematic for two reasons:
Plural Is Not the Same As Possessive
First, the apostrophe makes the names possessive, and when we send greetings, they are from us, not from something we own.
The names Smith and Williams would need to be in the possessive case only if the greeting were from Jane Smith’s hamster or John Williams’s goldfish.
(Yes, the majority of style manuals advocate the use of the additional s after the apostrophe for most singular words in the possessive case—even those that end in s.
We address this issue more fully in another post.)
Singular Is Not the Same As Plural
Second, examples 1 and 2 are wrong because the names are singular possessive. Since the writer intends for the greetings to come from all the family members, the name needs to be plural (and, as we have already noted, not possessive):
Singular names: Smith, Williams
Singular possessive names: Smith’s, Williams’s
Plural but not possessive names: Smiths, Williamses
Examples 3 and 4 are correct because in both cases the words are plural but not possessive. The name Smith becomes plural when we add an s to make Smiths.
Making Last Names Plural When They End in s (or sh, ch, z, or x)
The name Williams is tougher because it ends with s. Names (and all other nouns, for that matter) that end in sibilants (that is, the sounds s, sh, ch, z, or x) are made plural by the addition of es.
Thus the name Williams in its plural form is Williamses.
Here are some other correct examples of names that end in sibilants and are thus made plural by adding es:
- Happy holidays from the Bushes (plural form of the name Bush)
- Happy holidays from the Birches (plural form of the name Birch)
- Happy holidays from the Joneses (plural form of the name Jones)
- Happy holidays from the Foxes (plural form of the name Fox)
It’s Easy to Make Last Names Plural When They Do Not End in Sibilants
The following names do not end in sibilants and are thus made plural simply by adding s (but not an apostrophe!):
- Happy holidays from the Benjamins (plural form of the name Benjamin)
- Happy holidays from the Kirks (plural form of the name Kirk)
- Happy holidays from the Moores (plural form of the name Moore)
- Happy holidays from the Berrys (plural form of the name Berry—notice that we do not drop the y and add ies to proper names to make them plural as we do with common nouns)
Sentence 7 above skirts the issue, of course, by making the family name a modifier: “the Williams family.” In this case, the name should be neither plural nor possessive.
The mistake of using an apostrophe to make last names plural is so common that it has been widely addressed by such prominent publications as Southern Living, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. If you think this Get It Write explanation is clear and helpful, please help improve our ranking in organic searches by sharing the link on social media and elsewhere. Thank you!
(We have also addressed the more complicated issue of appropriately using apostrophes to make words possessive, including those that end with s.)
How would each of the following names be made plural but not possessive?
Copyright 1999 Get It Write, rev. 2019
How to Use Apostrophes in Names – apostrophecheck
There are check grammar online free tools that you can use to know if you correctly write the apostrophe or not. It is also important to know about rules in using apostrophes in names so that you will not have a hard time in writing.
Apostrophes in Names Rules
You will use apostrophe with “s” for possessive singular nouns: You will use the apostrophe with the letter “s” in showing possessive form of the singular noun, even if the singular noun is ending with the letter “s”.
- Harold’s crayon
- Dennis Plath’s poetry
- Big Jones’s game show
- Peter Thomas’s report
- Grace Beckham’s husband
You will use apostrophe without the letter “s” for possessives of plural nouns: In forming possessive of plural noun that is already ending with the letter “s”, you will only need to add the apostrophe.
- Johnsons’ café ( in here, possessive apostrophes tell that the care belongs to the Johnsons), (if plural noun doesn’t end with the letter “s”, you need to add apostrophe with “s”.
- Children’s clothes ( the clothes belongs to the children)
- Women’s meeting (the meeting belongs to the women)
Check Punctuation: Pluralized Family Name
If you want to know more about using apostrophes with names, this page will guide you. If you want possessive of pluralized family name, you need to pluralize the first and simply make name possessive using the apostrophe.
Smiths’ car, Joneses’ home. Usually, if the last name is ending with hard “z”, you will not add “-es” or “s”. What you only need to do is to add apostrophes in plurals such as the Chambers’.
- When it comes to compound possessives, the placement of the apostrophe will depend whether nouns are acting together or separately.
- For example:
- Cecilia’s and Danny’s old cars are in their basement.
- (It means that every of them have 1 old car and in terms of ownership, it is a separate matter.)
- Cecilia and Danny’s old cars are in their basement.
(This tells that Cecilia and Danny are sharing ownership on the card. The possessive which is indicated by the letter “s” belong to entire phrase and not just to Cecilia.)
Here is another example to understand compound possessives in terms of names.
- Clark and Peter’s expectation is the same.
- Clark’s and Peter’s expectation is the same.
(It means that expectations of them are different. You signify a separate ownership in writing compounded proper nouns in possessive form.)
Another thing is that is one of possessors in compound possessive is personal pronoun. You need to put both of the possessors in possessive form or you will make something silly. For example:
- John and my car towed last night
- Peter’s and his father was not so close when they were young.
Possessives with appositive forms
If possessive noun is being followed by appositive, the word explaining the noun or the words that renames, an apostrophe plus the letter “s” should be added to appositive and not on the noun. For instance:
- You must get Peter Garcia, the lawyer’s signature.
- Keep in mind that you need to make constructions with caution or you end up that looks silly:
- John wrecked his best friend, Amy’s car.
There you have the rules on how to use apostrophe so that you will be guided whenever you will write something. Knowing the rules will help you not to have a difficult time.
Follow the proper usage of apostrophes in names today!
Contractions (e.g., let’s, don’t, couldn’t, it’s, she’s) have a bad reputation. Many argue that they have no place at all in formal writing. You should, of course, observe your publisher’s or instructor’s requirements. An absolute avoidance of contractions, however, is likely to make your writing appear stilted and unwelcoming.
If you are unsure where to insert the apostrophe when forming a contraction, consult a good dictionary.
Avoid two of the most common contraction–apostrophe errors: the contraction of it is is it’s, and the contraction of let us is let’s; without the apostrophe, its is the possessive form of it, and lets is a form of the verb let, as in “to allow or permit.”
It’s often said that every dog has its day.
Let’s not forget that grandma lets the kids eat way too much junk food when they stay with her.
In informal writing, it is acceptable to indicate a year with only the last two digits preceded by an apostrophe (e.g., the class of ’85, pop music from the ’80s).
The apostrophe is seldom used to form a plural noun.
Since the 1980s, the Thomases, both of whom have multiple PhDs, have sold old books and magazines at the fair on Saturdays and Sundays.
Since the 1980’s, the Thomas’s, both of whom have multiple PhD’s, have sold old book’s and magazine’s at the fair on Saturday’s and Sunday’s.
The rare exception to the rule is when certain abbreviations, letters, or words are used as nouns, as in the following examples. Unless the apostrophe is needed to avoid misreading or confusion, omit it.
He received four A’s and two B’s.
We hired three M.D.’s and two D.O.’s.
Be sure to cross your t’s and dot your i’s.
Do we have more yes’s than no’s?
For this last example, the trend is to instead write yeses and noes.
The general rule is that the possessive of a singular noun is formed by adding an apostrophe and s, whether the singular noun ends in s or not.
- the lawyer’s fee
- the child’s toy
- the girl’s parents
- Xerox’s sales manager
- Tom Jones’s first album
- Jesus’s disciples
- Aeschylus’s finest drama
- JFK’s finest speech
- anyone’s guess
- a week’s vacation
- Texas’s oil industry
The possessive of a plural noun is formed by adding only an apostrophe when the noun ends in s, and by adding both an apostrophe and s when it ends in a letter other than s.
- excessive lawyers’ fees
- children’s toys
- the twins’ parents
- the student teachers’ supervisor
- the Smiths’ vacation house
- the Joneses’ vacation house
- the boys’ baseball team
- the alumni’s fundraising
- three weeks’ vacation
- someone with twelve years’ experience
Use only an apostrophe for singular nouns that are in the form of a plural—or have a final word in the form of a plural—ending with an s.
- Beverly Hills’ current mayor
- the United States’ lingering debt problem
- Cisco Systems’ CEO
- the Beatles’ first album
Nouns that end in an s sound take only an apostrophe when they are followed by sake.
for goodness’ sake
for conscience’ sake
A proper noun that is already in possessive form is left as is.
T.G.I. Friday’s menu was recently changed.
Correct but awkward: Let’s meet at St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s Fifth Avenue entrance.
Better: Let’s meet at the Fifth Avenue entrance for St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The apostrophe should never be separated from the word to which it attaches by adjacent punctuation.
The house on the left is the Smiths’, but the house at the end of the street is the Whites’.
The house on the left is the Smiths,’ but the house at the end of the street is the Whites.’
How To Use An Apostrophe (’)
Are you uncertain about when to use an apostrophe? Many people have difficulty with this punctuation mark. The best way to get apostrophes right is to understand when and why they are used. There are two main cases – click on the links below to find straightforward guidance:
- Using apostrophes to show possession
- Using apostrophes to show omission
People are often unsure about whether they should use its (without an apostrophe) or it’s (with an apostrophe). For information about this, you can go straight to the section it's or its?
Apostrophes showing possession
You use an apostrophe to show that a thing or person belongs or relates to someone or something: instead of saying the party of Ben or the weather of yesterday, you can write Ben’s party and yesterday’s weather.
Here are the main guidelines for using apostrophes to show possession:
Singular nouns and most personal names
- With a singular noun or most personal names: add an apostrophe plus s:
- We met at Ben’s party.
- The dog’s tail wagged rapidly.
- Yesterday’s weather was dreadful.
Personal names that end in –s
- With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud:
- He joined Charles’s army in 1642.
- Dickens's novels provide a wonderful insight into Victorian England.
- Thomas's brother was injured in the accident.
- Note that there are some exceptions to this rule, especially in names of places or organizations, for example:
- St Thomas’ Hospital
- If you aren’t sure about how to spell a name, look it up in an official place such as the organization’s website.
- With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s:
- The court dismissed Bridges' appeal.
- Connors' finest performance was in 1991.
Plural nouns that end in –s
- With a plural noun that already ends in -s: add an apostrophe after the s:
- The mansion was converted into a girls’ school.
- The work is due to start in two weeks’ time.
- My duties included cleaning out the horses’ stables.
Plural nouns that do not end in -s
- With a plural noun that doesn’t end in –s: add an apostrophe plus s:
- The children’s father came round to see me.
- He employs 14 people at his men’s clothing store.
The only cases in which you do not need an apostrophe to show belonging is in the group of words called possessive pronouns – these are the words his, hers, ours, yours, theirs (meaning ‘belonging to him, her, us, you, or them’) – and with the possessive determiners.
These are the words his, hers, its, our, your, their (meaning 'belonging to or associated with him, her, it, us, you, or them'). See also it's or its?
Apostrophes showing omission
- An apostrophe can be used to show that letters or numbers have been omitted. Here are some examples of apostrophes that indicate missing letters:
- I’m – short for I am
- he’ll – short for he will
- she’d – short for she hador she would
- pick ’n’ mix – short for pick and mix
- it’s hot – short for it is hot
- didn’t – short for did not
It also shows that numbers have been omitted, especially in dates, e.g. the Berlin Wall came down in the autumn of ’89 (short for 1989).
It’s or its?
These two words can cause a lot of confusion: many people are uncertain about whether or not to use an apostrophe. These are the rules to remember:
- its (without an apostrophe) means ‘belonging to it’:
The dog wagged its tail.
Each case is judged on its own merits.
- it’s (with an apostrophe) means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’:
- It’s been a long day.
- It’s cold outside.
- It’s a comfortable car and it’s got some great gadgets.
Apostrophes and plural forms
The general rule is that you should not use an apostrophe to form the plurals of nouns, abbreviations, or dates made up of numbers: just add -s (or -es, if the noun in question forms its plural with -es). For example:
|euro||euros||(e.g. The cost of the trip is 570 euros.)|
|pizza||pizzas||(e.g. Traditional Italian pizzas are thin and crisp.)|
|apple||apples||(e.g. She buys big bags of organic apples and carrots.)|
|MP||MPs||(e.g. Local MPs are divided on this issue.)|
|1990||1990s||(e.g. The situation was different in the 1990s.)|
It's very important to remember this grammatical rule.
There are one or two cases in which it is acceptable to use an apostrophe to form a plural, purely for the sake of clarity:
- you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single letters:
I've dotted the i's and crossed the t's.
Find all the p's in appear.
- you can use an apostrophe to show the plurals of single numbers:
Find all the number 7’s.
These are the only cases in which it is generally considered acceptable to use an apostrophe to form plurals: remember that an apostrophe should never be used to form the plural of ordinary nouns, names, abbreviations, or numerical dates.
You can read more rules and guidelines about apostrophes on the Oxford Dictionaries blog. Here you will find further examples of correct and incorrect use of apostrophes.
- Back to punctuation.
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