Cambridge Dictionaries online Cambridge Dictionaries online

The most popular online dictionary and thesaurus for learners of English

  

Apostrophe (’)

Apostrophe to show two words have been connected (contraction)

We sometimes connect two words to make one shorter word. We use an apostrophe to show that we have left out one or more letters:

do not → don’t

They don’t like salt in their food.

it is → it’s

It’s a long way to walk.

is not → isn’t

Isn’t that such a pretty dress?

you have → you’ve

You’ve broken my watch!

cannot → can’t

We can’t tell your father.

will not → won’t

She won’t eat any vegetables.

wh-word + ’s, ’d, etc.

What’s he doing? Who’d like some coffee?

Warning:

We use ’s for has and is:

She’s seen that movie already. (has)

He’s my brother. (is)

Warning:

We use ’d for had and would:

They’d never been to Japan before. (had)

She’d love to live in the USA. (would)

Apostrophe + s to show possession

When we show who owns something or has a close relationship with something, we use an apostrophe + s after the name or the noun. When the noun is plural, we put the apostrophe after the s:

Is that Frank’s camera?

There was a big teachers’ conference last week in Mexico City. (a conference for teachers)

Apostrophe with time

We can use an apostrophe + s to show duration. When the time noun is plural, the apostrophe comes after the s:

For me, writing an essay involves at least an hour’s work.

It was just ten minutes’ walk from my house to my office. (the walk from my house to my office takes just ten minutes)

When we write the time, we sometimes use o’clock:

14:00: two o’clock

18:00: six o’clock

Apostrophe: typical error

  • We use an apostrophe to contract it is to it’s. We don’t use an apostrophe with possessive its:

The University is very proud of its gardens.

Not: … of it’s gardens.

(“Apostrophe (’)” from English Grammar Today © Cambridge University Press. Need grammar practice? Try English Grammar Today with Workbook.)

Word of the Day

amicable

relating to behaviour between people that is pleasant and friendly, often despite a difficult situation

Word of the Day

Blog

Read our blog about how the English language behaves.

Learn More

New Words

Find words and meanings that have just started to be used in English, and let us know what you think of them.

Learn More