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How to use apostrophes 

Possession is when something belongs to you or when you own something.
  • The man’s car is in the garage.
  • The car owned by the man.
To show possession, we put the apostrophe before the s.
In this case we are talking about just one man, so the apostrophe goes before the s on man’s.
  • That is John’s car.
  • Nottingham’s best curry.
  • Vietnam’s national costume is the Ao dai.
Sometimes there is a lot of confusion about whether to put the apostrophe before an s to show possession.
There are two ways to show possession when the name ends in s.
  • She is Chris’ girlfriend.
  • She is Chris’s girlfriend.
  • He is Mr Jones’s business partner.
  • He is Mr Jones’ business partner.
Ordinary (or common) nouns that end in s, both singular and plural, show possession simply by adding an after the s but proper nouns (names of people, cities, countries etc.) can form the possessive either by adding the ‘s or simply adding the .
  • The Hughes' home. (or the Hughes's home).
  • Mr Jones's shop. (or Mr Jones' shop).
  • Charles' book. (or Charles's book).
Its important to know that today it is no longer considered incorrect to use either form (Jones's or Jones') and many large organizations now drop the ' completely when publishing their name.
  • Barclays Bank,
  • Missing Persons Bureau.
  • McDonalds restaurant.

Collective nouns

A collective noun is one that we do not put s. They have their own words already so we do not say womans because women mean more than one woman. Likewise men means more than one man, and children means more than one child.
So they are a little bit different to just a regular noun where you can just put s on the end.
When we have a collective noun we have a different apostrophe rule we simply write the collective noun down and the add apostrophe followed by the s.
  • The women’s group meet weekly.
  • This means the group belonging to the women.  
  • The men’s toilets are disgusting.
  • The children ‘s department is upstairs.
Let’s compare the collective nouns apostrophe rules to just normal nouns where we put an s to show more than one.
Boy and boys
  • There are ten boys in the team.
  • I have on daughter and three boys.
  • I saw a couple of boys being naughty at lunch.
The plural of boy is boys however when we refer to a group of boys we use the apostrophe after the s.
  • The boys’ school is excellent.
  • The boys’ football team won all their matches this year.
  • The boys’ toilets smell bad.
These sentences already have an s, we just put the apostrophe on the outside of the s.
Some apostrophe rules you might not use.
  • Chris and Peter’s friend David.
  • Peter and Chris’ friend David.
There is one David and he is equally a friend of Chris and Peter but we do not put two apostrophes we only do it once after second name when we want to show that the possession is equal to both of the subjects.
  • Sarah’s and Sharon’s boyfriends.
We do not want to say that Sarah and Sharon share a boyfriend so we need to show that we are talking about two separate girls each with their own boyfriend.
If we take the first apostrophe away then they share one boyfriend.
  • Sarah and Sharon’s boyfriend.
Many people make this simple grammar mistake but you want to make sure you have got your grammar right because you might be confused.
Remember if possession is two separate things in your sentence you have to put two apostrophes for each subject.
Compound nouns
Compound nouns are when there is more than one word that goes together to make a noun.
  • Brother in law
  • Mother in law
These are singular. So how do we show possession and where does the apostrophe go in the three words?
  • My brother in law ‘s party.
One brother in law and one party so we put the apostrophes after law to show us that we are just talking about one brother in law. It is just one man having a party. 
  • My brother in law’s party.
Whereas if you have a plural compound noun first you need to write your compound noun in a singular
  • Brother in law
To make it a plural you put the plural on the first word.
  • Brothers in law
Two brothers
There are two brothers in law and they have different wives but one company together.
  • The brothers in law’s company.


These pronouns do not take apostrophes:
  • His, hers, theirs, yours, whose, ours, its.
They do not take apostrophes at the end of the word and they do not take apostrophe before the s.  
You need to watch out for these or you could make a terrible mistake and you do not want to make mistakes with apostrophes because you could have Sarah and Sharon sharing a boyfriend.




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