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Apostrophes generally clarify possession or ownership.

Possession (Nouns)

For nouns (plural or singular) that do not already end with the letter "s," add an apostrophe "s" to the end to make that noun possessive.

Example: The audience's feedback will be compared to the program's review of the same texts.

Example: I don't know which of my brothers-in-law's houses we will go to for the holidays.

For nouns (plural or singular) that already end with the letter "s," follow these two rules for making them possessive:

  • Add only an apostrophe (no "s") when possession does not add an extra syllable.

Example: Our bosses' effectiveness in leading others depends upon their leadership style.

Example: As a fellow writing center tutor, I can offer personal insight into the authors' claims.

  • Add an apostrophe "s" when possession adds an extra syllable, such as an extra "s" sound.

Example: A boss's effectiveness in leading others depends upon his or her leadership style.

Example: The actress's nominations were not suprising.

When you want to make two or more nouns possessive, follow these two rules:

  • If both nouns possess separate things, make both nouns possessive.

Example: Mary-Kate's and Ashley's acting careers began when they were only infants.

  • If both nouns possess the same exact thing, make only the last noun possessive.

Examples: I am my mom and dad's second child. I am my dad and mom's second child.

Possession (Pronouns)

Do not use an apostrophe for personal pronouns that are already possessive (see list below).

  • my/mine
  • our/ours
  • your/yours
  • his
  • her/hers
  • their/theirs
  • its
  • whose

Use an apostrophe "s" to make all other pronouns possessive.

  • one's
  • everybody's
  • everyone's
  • nobody's
  • no one's


Use an apostrophe in all contractions (combinations of multiple words). Place the apostrophe where the letter or letters have been removed to form the contraction.

  • I'll = I will
  • I've = I have
  • you're = you are
  • you've = you have
  • you'll = you will
  • y'all = you all
  • it's = it is; it has
  • she's = she is; she has
  • he's = he is; he has
  • there's = there is; there has
  • can't = cannot
  • couldn't = could not
  • could've = could have
  • wouldn't = would not
  • would've = would have
  • shouldn't = should not
  • should've = should have