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Writing – Apostrophes

An apostrophe is an important punctuation mark which is often used incorrectly or forgotten. The best way to get apostrophes right is to understand when and why they are used.

Apostrophes have the following uses:

Apostrophes are often used in contractions (when two words are combined) to show missing letters. (Note in the IELTS exam you should not use contractions use the full form as this is more formal.)

Many people don’t recognise the importance of good public transport systems. (do not)

You won’t get a job if you’re not well-qualified. (will not) (you are)

An apostrophe followed by the letter ‘s’ is used to show possession.

People’s salaries have fallen in recent years. 

The government’s role in providing free accommodation for homeless people has been debated a lot in the media recently.

For regular PLURAL nouns (with the letter ‘s’ at the end), the apostrophe goes AFTER the final ‘s’ to show possession.

Workers’ rights must be protected by legislation.

You DON’T need an apostrophe when writing plural nouns.

I ate 6 tomatoe’s.
I ate 6 tomatoes.

You DON’T need an apostrophe for a possessive..

He gave the dog it’s dinner.
He gave the dog its dinner.


An apostrophe ( ‘ ) is not the same as a comma ( , ) – one goes at the top, one goes at the bottom!

Apostrophe Practice

Each of the sentences below has an apostrophe error. The apostrophe may be missing, used incorrectly or is unnecessary. Correct each mistake.

  1. The medias’ attitude to individuals’ privacy has come under close scrutiny in recent years.
  2. Charitie’s role in helping homeless people cannot be underestimated.
  3. People are spending more and more money on luxury products such as TV’s and game consoles.
  4. Peoples’ opinions of politics have been affected in recent years due to some extremely negative media coverage.
  5. Government grants’ should be made available for young people to set up businesses.

Click here to show / hide the answers

For example:

Research has shown that peoples attitudes to crime have hardened in recent years.

Correct: Research has shown that people’s attitudes to crime have hardened in recent years.

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