I think everyone was sick the day this was discussed in school because I see it wrong everywhere. That’s the thing, once you learn the right way to use apostrophes, you’re going to start noticing it wrong everywhere, too.
WARNING: You can back out now and live in apostrophe bliss or else keep reading and then start noticing them used wrong… everywhere.
Apostrophes NEVER Make Something Plural… Ever
This is wrong: “There were a lot of cat’s there.”
This is correct: “There were a lot of cats there.”
The first one is trying to either show possession (a lot of cat’s what there? Cat’s toys?) or be a contraction for the word cat + is (but that wouldn’t make any sense). Either way, it’s not ever making the word “cat” plural. To make something plural, you follow those rules, which are usually to just add the letter “s” or letters “es” – pretty simple.
This Also Goes for Initials and Years
Believe it or not – this is wrong: “He was born in the 1960’s”
The 1960’s what? (He was born right there in that 1960’s chair?)
These are wrong, too (you see this everywhere – even in advertising):
Just plain wrong. These are correct:
Simple Apostrophe Rules
Here are some pretty simple rules to remember (from scribendi.com):
- Do not use an apostrophe in the possessive pronouns whose, ours, yours, his, hers, its, or theirs.
- Do not use an apostrophe in nouns that are plural but not possessive, such as CDs, 1000s, or 1960s.
- Do not use an apostrophe in any verbs.
Use Apostrophes For Contractions
For example: “That’s a nice hat you’re wearing” means “That is a nice hat you are wearing.”
It’s Versus Its
This one is a little confusing but I have a trick to help you.
You would think that having the apostrophe in there would show possession. It doesn’t (does not).
The trick to this one is that every time you see “it’s” just read it as “is it” – cool, huh? That is what it really means.
You’ll see that this is wrong: “The frog can see it’s feet.” because that means: “The frog can see it is feet.” and that makes no sense at all.
The correct way is: “The frog can see its feet.”
With Plural Nouns, Apostrophes Go After the S
For example: “Tonight is guys’ night out.”
There is more than one guy, so it’s “guys” and it’s their night out.
If you wrote: “Tonight is guy’s night out.” then you’d be saying that it’s a night out for one guy and that’s probably not what you mean.
I told you. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. If you remember these rules, then you’re going to start seeing apostrophe’s (see that one?) used wrong everywhere. Hopefully you don’t go insane or anything. Just bookmark this page and send people here so they can be enlightened.
- Apostrophes (grammarbook.com)
- How to Use an Apostrophe (Infographic) (theoatmeal.com)
- Guidelines for Using Apostrophes Correctly (about.com)
- The Apostrophe (owl.english.purdue.edu)