When do you use the apostrophe S in English?

Students learning English quickly learn that the apostrophe in English is normally used to make a contraction.
For example, instead of writing IT IS, you can write IT’S
Instead of HE IS, we can write HE’S … etc.

However the apostrophe is not only used to show a contraction has been made.
It is also commonly used to show that something belongs to someone or has a relationship with them.
This is called the Genitive Case and also the Possessive Case.

Check out the two charts I have made to explain when we use to use the apostrophe:

This is the original chart I created in 2012…

A chart explaining when to use the Apostrophe S in English

And this is the new chart I created in 2019:

Apostrophe S - Possessive Nouns in English - Genitive Case

It is nice to see my charts improve a little over time 🙂

PLEASE NOTE: We do NOT use the Apostrophe S to make singular words plural. 1 apple, 2 apples (Not 2 apple’s)

More information about the Apostrophe S

For more information about using ‘S, check out:

I hope you found this useful.


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5 Responses to “When do you use the apostrophe S in English?”

  1. denis 26 June, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

    Dear Woodward.
    I saw an exemple in ‘s :
    Yesterday, the plumbers fixed the sinks’ pipes.
    The books’ pages are folded and worn.
    I would like to know if ‘s can be used with things ?
    Because my friends told me that it can be used only with animals or people.
    Can you please explaine me the right rules ?
    Thank you very much

    • woodward 28 June, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Hi, the ‘s CAN be used with more than just people and animals.
      According to Oxford Guide to English Grammar – John Eastwood

      In general we are more likely to use the possessive form with people rather things and to talk about possession rather than about other relations.
      We can use both patterns with nouns that do not refer directly to people but suggest human activity or organization, for example nouns referring to places, companies or newspapers. – Page 185

      Though note what is said in Practical English Usage – Michael Swan

      But to talk about parts of non-living things, we usually use the noun + noun structure or the OF structure
      e.g. the table leg, the roof of a house. – page 380

      Sometimes in common speech you may hear people use the ‘s as in the examples you mentioned. People will still understand you though you are best to avoid it.

  2. Sabahat 12 July, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

    I guess there ought to be “The speech of Chile’s president was too long” instead of ” the president of Chile’s speech,..”

    • woodward 12 July, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

      You could say The speech BY Chile’s president was too long.


  1. How to pronounce the S at the end of words in English | Woodward English - 18 March, 2013

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