How to use apostrophes in English

Categories English By JadePosted on Format Film
How to use apostrophes in English Apostrophes are confusing! These small punctuation marks – ’ – are often used incorrectly. People often make apostrophe mistakes in emails, and even on the signs of shops! (You would think that someone would notice before the sign was printed and put up!) Even if you are understood, mistakes in this area make your writing look unprofessional.

I’m telling you that using apostrophes is actually easy and straightforward in most of the situations you are ever likely to use them. In this English lesson, I explain the simple and essential uses of the apostrophe to show possession. Later, I tell you the advanced uses of the apostrophe. Watch this writing lesson, and you can be sure that you’re using apostrophes in the correct way. Essential viewing for any shopkeepers – BEFORE they get their signs printed!

Take a quiz on apostrophes here:


Hello, I’m Jade. What we’re talking about today is how to use apostrophes. So, I know there’s going to be a few native speakers watching this video. It really is time to learn how to use apostrophes correctly. It’s not that hard. There are a few simple rules and we’re going to talk about them today. We’ll start with the easy stuff, and eventually we’ll get to the more advanced rules, but you’ll probably never need to use the more advanced rules. But anyway, we’ll get there in the second part of the lesson.

So what I want to start with is mentioning my school name. „Haberdashers Askes Hatcham College”. This is where I learnt how to use apostrophes. But at first, I cheated because I’ve got a really… Had a really long school name and I always remember needing to write this on exam papers. But I think when I… When I started the school, I probably didn’t know how to use apostrophes so I memorized where the apostrophes went. I didn’t understand why they went there, but I memorized them.

So the apostrophes were like this: „Haberdashers'” and „Aske’s”. I’m going to explain why. So what’s „Haberdashers'”? A „haberdasher” is an old-fashioned word for somebody who makes garments, makes clothes, and all together, they were… They were together in what’s called a trade guild. And this is quite an old-fashioned thing now; maybe doesn’t really exist so much, but they had some charitable objectives. And so they were a group of these haberdasher people and one of them was a man called „Robert Aske,” so this is somebody’s name; person. And „Hatcham” is a place in London, and „College” is quite a poshy name for a school. So you put all those words together and that’s my school.

But let’s talk about: why these apostrophes? So, the apostrophe is outside the „s” here because we’re talking about more than one haberdasher, that’s the rule; more than one thing, and possession – the apostrophe goes on the outside. Why the apostrophe here? When the possession belongs… One thing belongs to one person, we put the apostrophe before the „s”. So the school belongs to Aske, Mr. Aske so that’s why the apostrophe is there. Maybe that’s confusing. Let’s break it down and look at the rules one-by-one using apostrophes.

So, number one: possession. Another meaning of possession is when… When you lose your mind, you’re taken over by something. But the more… The meaning I’m talking about here is when something belongs to you; when you own something.

So here’s a man, here’s his car.
„The man’s car is there.”
This sentence means: the car belonging to the man. And to show possession, I put the apostrophe before the „s”. I’m talking about just one man, so the apostrophe goes before the „s”.

And same really in these other examples:
„That’s George’s car.”
Why..? Why one here? Well, here, we’re not talking about apostrophes and possessions, this is something else. That means: „That is”. That means something else. This is an apostrophe with possession. His name is George, it’s a car belonging to George. „That’s George’s car.” And to show something belongs to someone, when we’ve got a name, we put the apostrophe after their name and then we put the „s” there.

And we don’t… We can also do it with places. So we’ve got:
„London’s best fish and chips.”
The best fish and chips belonging to London, and again, we do apostrophe, „s”.

So when we’re talking about possession, that’s quite clear. It’s okay, yeah? But now we have an exception, and sometimes there’s a lot of confusion about this and sometimes people get quite annoyed. But what I am going to say is that there are two… There are two ways to show possession when the name ends with an „s”. So it’s preference really; some people prefer this way, some people prefer this way. All you need to do is just pick one and be standard, always… If you pick one, just use that way all the time. Don’t… Definitely don’t do it one way in an essay and then get a bit scared and do it a different way because you’ll be wrong then. You need to pick… You definitely need to pick a way.