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Apostrophes have two primary uses: 

1. Contractions

Apostrophes are used to make contractions. When words are joined into abbreviated forms, apostrophes replace the missing letters. 


  • it is = it's
  • we are = we're
  • could have = could've
  • I am = I'm

Remember, contractions are not generally acceptable for formal writing.

2. Possessives

Apostrophes are used to indicate ownership. In most cases, words will either receive an apostrophe, followed by an s, or simply an apostrophe. 

The following situations receive an 's: 

  • Singular words: cat's paw, shoe's lace, Sarah's song; Mokey's diary
  • Plural words not ending in s: children's games; mice's cheese
  • Singular proper names, even if they do end in s: Chris's car; James's hat; Dickens's novel


The following situations receive only an ':

  •  Plural words: girls' father; bears' cave; Cardinals' pitcher


When using pronouns, do NOT use an apostrophe to show ownership. 


  • It's is ALWAYS it is, never the possessive. The possessive is always its, without an apostrophe.
  • Who's = who is; whose is the possessive.