Apostrophes have a role to play in just two situations:
1. To indicate missing letters, as in a contraction (which we avoid in formal writing but use all the time elsewhere):
Cannot = can't
Also, you can indicate missing letters / numbers with an apostrophe in other situations:
It is = 'Tis
1980s = '80s
2. To indicate possession (Matt's book, George's education, the boys' bikes)
PRO TIP: Possessive pronouns (including: his, hers, theirs, its, ours) are already inherently possessive and therefore do not need an apostrophe.
Do NOT use apostrophes to indicate plurals or verb forms. (
He run's. She lie's. The 1980's were colorful years.)
PRO TIP TWO:
Whatever you may have heard, the issue of whether you use just an apostrophe or an apostrophe + s is NOT based on whether something ends in "s" or not. That is a shortcut that will, sometimes, end in error. Instead, it is based on whether something is singular (then add apostrophe + s) or plural (just the apostrophe):
- Chris's shirt
- Stevens's imagination
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