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Apostrophes (’) are used in two ways. First, they show ownership or possession of singular and plural nouns. Second, they are used to show when there is a missing letter in a contraction.
Sentence 1: Margaret has a new car.
Sentence 2: Margaret’s new car is blue.
In the first sentence we learn that Margaret has a new car and in the second sentence, the apostrophe (’) with the added letter “s” tells us that the car belongs to Margaret or that Margaret owns the car.
Margaret is the singular subject in the above sentence. When showing possession with a singular subject, the apostrophe comes at the end of the word followed by an “s”. However, when the subject is plural, i.e. the word ends in an “s”, then the apostrophe comes after the “s”. Here is an example:
Sentence 1: The horses were given fresh hay.
Sentence 2: The horses’ hay was fresh.
In the first sentence we learn that “horses” were given fresh hay and in the second sentence we learn that the horses own the hay. As “horses” is plural, meaning there is more than one horse, the apostrophe appears after the “s”. An additional “s” is not added. The exception with putting an apostrophe at the end of a plural noun and adding the “s” is when a plural word does not end in an “s”. Examples of plural words that do not end in “s” include men, women, children and people. When showing possession, they would be written as men’s, women’s, children’s and people’s.
[NOTE: When a proper name ends in an “s” it is treated as a singular subject and is, therefore, given an apostrophe followed by an “s”. For example: Charles is a singular noun. Even though his name ends in an “s”, to show something belongs to Charles it would be written as “Charles’s”.]
cannot becomes can’t (the apostrophe replaces the second “n” and the “o”)
do not becomes don’t (the apostrophe replaces the “o” in not and connects “do” to “not”)
is not becomes isn’t (the apostrophe replaces the “o” in not and connects “is” to “not”).