Personal DevelopmentWritingGrammar Rules: When to Use Apostrophe-S | The Ready Writers

January 19, 2018by readywriters

Knowing when to use an apostrophe and when to use apostrophe -s can be tricky. Though this perplexing punctuation problem looks easy to crack through, many writers are fond of misusing it.

Sometimes, it’s hard to distinguish ‘its’ from ‘it’s’, and you wonder which is right ‘Jesus’ or ‘Jesus’s’. Such are the confusions that comes with the use of Apostrophe-S. This article shares with you all you need to know about the use of Apostrophe-S.


Generally speaking, when you’re indicating more than one, you simply add an “s” to the word. For instance, do you have a dog or dogs?


If you’re showing ownership, then you’ll usually add apostrophe -s to the word. You have a dog. Your dog has a collar. That is the “dog’s collar”. If something (collar) belongs to something else (dog), it is given the apostrophe -s to show possession.


But what if you have more than one dog and they each have their own collar? You have dogs. They have collars. Those are the dogs’ collars. When you’re dealing with more than one owner, the plural “s” is added and the apostrophe follows.

However, this is one of the tricky part of the use of the punctuation. What do you do when you have a word that ends with “s”? Will you use just the apostrophe or apostrophe and an “s”?

This is one of the exceptions to the rules guiding the use of apostrophe-s. There is a rule that is derived from the pronunciation of the word. For instance, for names “of two or more syllables that end in an /eez/ sound”, you add just the apostrophe: Euripides’ tragedies, the Ganges’ source, Xerxes’ armies.

If you add and pronounce “-ess” at the end of a possessive word (to indicate possession), then it takes the apostrophe-s, even if already ends with an “s”. For example: Chris’s shoe, Lagos’s roads, Dickens’s novels, etc.

Interestingly, both of the following are correct: for Jesus’ sake (and) Jesus’s contemporaries.

Apostrophe -S and the Word It

Should you add the apostrophe -s or not? When does it take apostrophe -s and when does it just take an s?

One word in the English language stands out as an exception to the rule when it comes to plural versus possession. The word it is treated a bit differently. In fact, there is no plural possession at all because it is inherently singular (the plural form is another word altogether: they). That’s a relief. But what about when “it” owns something?

When you’re showing possession with the word it, you simply reverse the rules and lose the apostrophe. The car has wheels. Its wheels are round. See? No apostrophe when something belongs to it.

What About It’s?

“It’s” is neither possessive nor plural. When the apostrophe -s is added to “it”, what you’re seeing is a contraction, or a shortening of two words. The phrase “it is” is being shortened. If you have a hard time remembering this, try saying your sentence or phrase by replacing “its” or “it’s” with “it is.” If “it is” works, then you have a contraction and the apostrophe is required. If not, then just an “s” will do.

Remembering the rules is easy. All you have to do is remember that if there’s ownership or possession, then the word should take apostrophe -s. If there are many (the word is plural), then just an “s” will do. If a word is both plural and possessed, it gets an “s” followed by an apostrophe. And for the word “it,” the rules are reversed.

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