Apostrophes - Contraction and Possession

Apostrophes are used to show that one or more letters have been left out of a word (called a contraction) or in some numbers and to show possession.



  • can't
  • don't
  • didn't
  • haven't
  • wouldn't
  • shouldn't

A contraction is when an apostrophe is used to omit a letter in word.

Example #1

I couldn't find my socks, so I wore sandals instead of shoes.
Reasoning: The word couldn't is a contraction because couldn't takes the place of could not. Therefore, the o is left out of not and an apostrophe is put in its place.

Example #2

I was born in '54.
Reasoning: The term '54 stands for 1954. Therefore, an apostrophe is used in place of the number 19. This is not a contraction; it represents a number or numbers left out.
Note: When numbers are left out, it is usually for a year, and only the last two numbers of the year are listed after the apostrophe.

Try the apostrophe exercises using contractions:

Exercise 1 | Exercise 2



To determine if an item is possessive (and, therefore, requires an apostrophe), ask yourself, "Is this somebody's something?" If the answer is "yes," then the word is possessive and requires an apostrophe.

Here are some common examples of how apostrophes are used in possession:

Singular Possession Example

The woman's dress was yellow.
Reasoning: The word woman's tells whose dress it is; therefore it requires an apostrophe. It is singular possessive because the sentence is talking about only one woman.

Plural Possession Example

The two brothers' bicycles were stolen.
Reasoning: The word brothers' tells whom the bicycles belong to AND that they belong to more than one person; therefore, brothers' requires an apostrophe. It is plural possessive because the sentence is talking about two brothers; hence, the apostrophe is placed after the s in brothers.

Try the apostrophe exercises that show possession:

Exercise 3 | Exercise 4