Lesson One. Use apostrophes correctly for possession and contraction.


The Possessive Case of Nouns

1. The possessive case of nouns is formed by adding an apostrophe and an s to words which do not end with an s or a z sound:

the boy's room, the children's school;


and by adding only the apostrophe to words which do end with an s or a z sound: the boys' room, Dickens' novel.

If, however, the word ending in s or z is a proper noun with only one syllable, an apostrophe and an s are added to the word: Keats's sonnets, Santa Claus's reindeer.


NOTE: Some classical names and other names that would he awkward to pronounce with an added apostrophe and s use only the apostrophe: Xerxes' chariot, Moses' tablets.


2. Care must be taken in forming the possessive form of nouns ending with y because although the singular and plural forms sound the same way, they are spelled differently.

the baby's cry [one baby's cry]

the babies' murmurings [the murmurings of several babies]


3. When possession is shared by two or more nouns, this fact is indicated by using the possessive case for the last noun in the series: Jose, Fred, and Edward's canoe.

            But when two or more nouns each possess different objects, use apostrophes for each:  Joe’s and Ernie’s cars,  Mary’s and Tiffany’s jobs



4. When two nouns refer to the same person, the second noun is in the possessive case.

the mother of the bride's yellow dress [The bride probably wore white. If the phrase sounds awkward, the use of two possessives does not improve it much: the bride's mother's yellow dress.] Better: The yellow dress of the bride's mother.


5. Inanimate things do not normally "possess" anything. The possessive form using the preposition of  is used in order to express an arrangement or part of inanimate things.


             piles of coats      NOT     *coats' piles

the edge of the chisel      NOT     *the chisel's edge


However, writers have long made exception to this rule in such matters as time, money, and transportation: a day's work, a dollar's worth, the ship's compass. Today more and more inanimate things are taking the apostrophe form of the possessive: the razor's edge, the book's success, education's failure. Obviously, no clear rule can be stated where the razor's edge is approved and the chisel's edge is not.


6. To form the possessive of a plural noun that does not end in s, add an apostrophe

and an s.

            women +'s = women’s            people +'s = people’s trout + 's = trout’s


7. To form the possessive of indefinite pronouns, use an apostrophe and an s.

            everyone +'s = everyone’s                  no one +'s =no one’s             


 Personal Pronoun Possessives hers, its, theirs, yours, and oneself never have an apostrophe.



8. Use an apostrophe in a contraction. An apostrophe replaces one or more letters that are left out.

she’s = she is       hasn’t = has not     shouldn’t = should not      it’s = it is


it’s is always it is


9. Use an apostrophe to show the omission of numbers in a date.

the class of ‘85 (the class of 1985)                  an ‘84 Chevy (a 1984 Chevy)


10. Use an apostrophe and s to form the plurals of letters, figures, and words used as


                        two A’s            three 10’s        no if‘s, and’s, or but’s





A possessive relationship is indicated in each of the following by the use of the words belonging to. Whenever it is correct to do so, rewrite the phrase using the possessive case with an apostrophe. When the use of the apostrophe is incorrect, rewrite the phrase using the preposition of.




The hat belonging to John                   John’s hat

The roof belonging to the house          The roof of the house



I. The dress belonging to the woman                                                                          


2. The club belonging to the women                                                                           


3. The broom belonging to the janitor                                                           


4. The room belonging to the janitors                                                                         


5. The novel belonging to Hughes                                                                              


6. The chair belonging to the secretary                                                                       


7. The suite belonging to the bosses                                                                           


8. The mast belonging to the ship                                                                               


9. The floor belonging to the room                                                                             


10. The gyroscope belonging to the. airplane                                                             


11. The essay belonging to John Abrams                                                                   


12. The canoe belonging to Dick and John                                                                


13. The sweater belonging to Dick and the sweater belonging to John




14. The works belonging to Shakespeare                                                                   


15. The house belonging to the Smiths                                                                                  

16. The rails belonging to the fence                                                                            

17. The firm belonging to Salter, Stone, and Atlas                                                      


18. The firms belonging individually to Salter, Stone, and Atlas




19. The books belonging to Amos                                                                             


20. The ring belonging to John's mother-in-law                                                         


21. the gift of the class of 1999                                                                                  


22. the repeated letters in “Mississippi”                                                                               


23. the rings of the two girls                                                                                       


24. the idea of someone                                                                                              


25. the right of everyone                                                                                             


26. contraction of let us                                                                                              


27. five of the letter “b”                                                                                            


28. the fault of the binary system                                                                               


29. contraction of are not                                                                                           


30. the RAM of the computer                                                                                     


In each of the following, replace the of-phrase with the idiomatic expression using the apostrophe.


work of a day              a day's work



31. a tour of three weeks                                                                                


32. worth of seven dollars                                                                              


33. time of one hour                                                                                       


34. a vacation of two months                                                                          


35. worth of his money                                                                                  



Directions: Provide the proper corrections to the following:


1.     The shirt will not lose its color when its washed.


2.     Our house is almost exactly like theirs.


3.     All the mens names should be signed on the last page.


4.     We called two doctors offices, but couldnt find any help.


5.     The guide showed their friends the secret passage.


6.     January sales in stores are often of womens coats.


7.     We cant find a phone number in John Hollis name.


8.     Theres a mistake in Mrs. Blacks bank account.


9.     We like to watch the wild geeses flight each fall.


10.  Where can I get a coat like yours?


11.  Our records good, but theirs is better.


12.  I want to ask for James advice.


13.  Where did you put Mrs. Fergusons letter?


14.  Both of my two bosses children were cute.


15.  The letters mistakes should be sent to the newspapers section on retractions.


16.  The 60s were a hippies delight.


17.  To make the honor roll, you need all As and Bs.


18.  How many roads must a man walk down, before you call him a man?


19.  How many snow days did we get in the Blizzard of 96?


20.  Ben and Jerrys ice cream is the best.