It’s mine – apostrophes explained


Two things to remember: Apostrophes indicate either ownership or a contraction of words.


The apostrophe takes the place of the missing letters:

  • Do not = don’t
  • Does not = doesn’t
  • Is not = isn’t
  • Cannot = can’t
  • Could have = could’ve
  • I am = I’m
  • We will = we’ll
  • They are = they’re
  • Let us = let’s


  • Vusi’s cell phone
  • Sarah’s car
  • The children’s toys

Add an apostrophe and an S, except for plural words that already end with an S: My parents’ house

The odd one out: “its” is possessive, “it’s” stands for “it is” or “it has”.

Ownership by more than one

When two nouns possess the same entity, only the second takes an apostrophe:

  • I went to my aunt and uncle’s house yesterday.

When two nouns possess different entities, both possessives take an apostrophe:

  • My sister’s and cousin’s houses are on the same street.
  • When it’s hot, friends’ and neighbours’ children spend the day at our pool.

When words end with an S

If a word is only one syllable, use an apostrophe and an S:

  • Boss’s Day is on 16 October.

For plurals just add an apostrophe after the S: The Millers’ house is next to ours.

Follow this simple rule for the possessive: Add an extra S when you actually say it.

Sometimes singular and plural sound the same, you’ll only see the difference in writing:

  • My boy’s school is closed today. My boys’ school is closed today.

Wrong use of apostrophes

Never use an apostrophe to indicate a plural: PCs – DVDs – TVs – 1950s

©Andrea Paulsen