Apostrophe facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Greengrocer's apostrophe correction
A sign pointing to taxis at Leeds railway station, England, with the extraneous apostrophe crossed out by an unknown copy editor

The apostrophe () is a punctuation mark used in writing. It is a diacritic (a mark used with letters).

In English, it has two jobs:

  • To show where one or more letters have been left out (as in the abbreviation (contraction) of do not to don't).
  • To show the possessive case (as in the cat’s whiskers).


Its versus it's

The most common grammatical mistake in written English is to put it's where its is correct. Its: a possessive adjective and pronoun of the personal pronoun it.

  • The cat chased its tail. Correct.
  • The tyre lost it's grip. Wrong.

It's: a contraction of the verbal phrase It is or It has.

  • It's mine. Correct; check: It is mine.
  • It's been here. Correct; check: It has been here.
  • The cat chased it's tail. Wrong; cannot be expanded to It is.

The same applies to yours, theirs and ours because these are also possessive adjectives of personal pronouns.

  • The colour is ours.
  • That book is hers (or his).
  • Theirs was the responsibility.


Apostropes are also used to show something belongs to someone (or something). Again, correct uses can be expanded:

  • Mike's car. Correct: the car that belongs to Mike.
  • The dog's ball. Correct: the ball that belongs to the dog.
  • Those dog's are large. Wrong: cannot be expanded. Here "dogs" is a plural word.

The intrusive apostrophe

Comes in plurals which don't (do not) need it. Do not put an apostrophe in word ending in s, such as a plural. Put an apostrophe, or 's, at the end of the word instead.

  • Mrs. Jones' hat or Mrs. Jones's hat. Both correct.
  • Both of my parents' birthdays. Correct.
  • CD's and DVD's: wrong
  • Apple's and pear's: wrong

Writing dialogue or titles

Apostrophes are also used when other words are shortened, as in slang:

  • Go get 'em tiger! or Li'l Bow Bow.

This is just a version of the abbreviation function.

Images for kids

Apostrophe Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.