Rules for Apostrophes

Wondering about the rules for apostrophes? Perhaps you received a holiday card from the Joneses with a suspicious punctuation mark lurking in their name.

Here’s a small overview of how to use apostrophes to demonstrate possession.

With Singular Nouns

To form possession with singular nouns, use apostrophe plus “s” — even when the noun ends in “s.” Here are some examples:

My cat’s toys are on the floor.

Chris’s friends are at his house. (Note that in this case, Chris’ friends is also acceptable.)

With Plural Nouns Ending in “S”

To form possession with plural nouns that end in “s,” add an apostrophe after the final “s.” Here are some examples:

My parents’ friends are in town.

Or, to use a variation on the example above:

My cats’ toys are on the floor. (meaning I have more than one cat)

With Plural Nouns Not Ending in “S”

To form possession with plural nouns that don’t end in “s,” use apostrophe plus “s.”

The children’s toys are on the carpet.

Women’s clothing is on the first floor.

To Show Joint Possession

If two people own the same item, only use an apostrophe plus “s” in the last person’s name.

Maya and Chris’s apartment is for sale.

But if Maya and Chris do not own an apartment together and instead own separate apartments that are both for sale:

Maya’s and Chris’s apartments are for sale.

As for the Joneses . . .

If a name ends in “s” like Jones, add an “es” to the end to make it plural, indicating the entire Jones family.

The Joneses.

Now, to make Joneses possessive, add apostrophe plus “s”:

The Joneses’s kitten is sitting near the fireplace. (It’s also OK to write this as Joneses’.)

There are other rules for apostrophes, but that’s all for this small post. Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this post on rules for apostrophes, you might like this one on semicolons and this one on supposed vs. suppose.

Some Small Things is a bite-sized blog about seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Sometimes I write about grammar, too.

Sign up below to receive my posts by email.

  1. Nice one here. The ones I hate seeing are when people misapostrophisise (yeah, I made that word up) its and it’s. Also, dos and don’ts. And CEOs versus CEO’s. Let’s not get started on your and you’re. Anyway, thanks for this post!

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Stuart! Yes, those are also part of my writing class. I’ll get to those shortly in another post! Happy holidays!

  2. I struggled with its and it’s for years, until I finally got set straight. I’m sure there are a few others I mess up but this post has been helpful; especially when it comes to the names that end in s. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Diane! I really appreciate it. And yes, I agree! For me, it was affect/effect/effect. Maybe I’ll write on these next.

Say some things.