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Use of the Apostrophe

The apostrophe has two uses in English,

1) to show ownership (or possession as it is sometimes called), and

2) to indicate missing letters

The main, though not the only place, we use the latter is in contractions .

1. Ownership / possession

A. The possession which is meant is exclusively with nouns. Though it is true that pronouns can be possessive, their ownership is achieved by a possessive case:

my/ mine

your/ yours

his/ hers/ its

o u r/ o u rs

their/ theirs

B. Nouns form possession based on number and regularity.

a) If the noun owning something is single (singular):

the dog's bone

b) If the singular noun ends in an "s", the possessive is generally achieved with just an apostrophe:

the stress' duration

c) If the noun that is in possession is plural, the ownership is normally shown by adding an apostrophe alone:

dogs' bones

2 An Indication of Missing Letters

A. The most common place we see the apostrophe used in this way is with contractions to indicate where the letter(s) is/are missing:

a) Most contractions are of the pronoun/verb variety:

I'm you're he's she's it's we're they're

b) Or a verb/negative combination:

can't won't aren't

c) But there can also be noun/verb combinations:

Walt's written

d) More rare is the noun/will combination:

Fred'll be there

e) Most troublesome and least understood seems to be the verb/verb combination:

would've could've should've might've will've

B. But we also use the apostrophe to indicate missing letters anywhere in a word.

a) A missing letter at the end of a word indicates a dropped ending, often with --ing words:

lightenin' shootin'

b) Letters can be missing at the start of a word, also:

'most all (almost all) 'cause (because)

 

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