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We know you know what to do with apostrophes (unlike most of the rest of the English-speaking world). But here’s a recap:

To show belonging

When something belongs to one person or thing:

  • Claudia’s desk is next to Suzanne’s.

When something belongs to more than one person or thing and the word ends in ‘s’.

  • Charli was pleased with the participants’ feedback (the feedback of the participants).
  • Clients don’t always listen to our writers’ opinions (the opinions of a group of writers).

It’s not wrong to use s’s, as in that’s Jude Collins’s pen. But that’s Jude Collins’ pen looks neater so it’s better to go with the single ‘s’. Whatever you do, make sure you’re consistent.

When it’s plural and doesn’t end in ‘s’.

  • The women’s shoes are on the first floor on the left (the shoes for women).
  • We don’t interrupt people’s holidays with work stuff (the holidays of a group of people).

When there’s time involved:

  • one week’s notice
  • three years’ work
  • 30 days’ credit.

Notice that ‘one week’ is singular, which is why the apostrophe goes before the ‘s’. But ‘three years’ and ‘30 days’ are plural, so the apostrophe goes after the ‘s’.

In contractions

When you use an apostrophe in a contraction it shows that a letter (or letters) is missing. So:

  • they’re is short for ‘they are’
  • there’s means ‘there is’
  • who’s means ‘who is’ or ‘who has’
  • you’re is short for ‘you are’
  • it’s is short for ‘it is’ or 'it has'.

Remember, the only time ‘it’s’ needs an apostrophe is when you mean ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. So you’d say ‘It’s Lisa’s turn to make the tea’ and ‘It’s been forever since I had a good cup of tea’. But: ‘The modem’s lost its connection again’.

Even though you’d think the possessive form of ‘its’ (eg ‘the air conditioning unit has a mind of its own’) would need an apostrophe, it doesn’t. Trust us. If you find it confusing, think of ‘ours’ (which is never ‘our’s’).

Not contractions (as they don’t have apostrophes in them) but worth mentioning are:

  • their means ‘belonging to them’
  • whose means ‘of whom’
  • your means ‘belonging to you’.