As previously discussed, apostrophes are not only used to show possession, but are also used in contractions. In a contraction, two words are combined, leaving out some letters and replacing them with an apostrophe. Contractions are most commonly used when speaking and in informal writing, though they are less common in academic writing. To use an apostrophe to create a contraction, place the apostrophe where the omitted letter(s) would go. Here are some examples:
don't = do not (the "o" has been omitted and replaced with an apostrophe); o'clock = of the clock; 'twas = it was; ma'am = madam; shouldn't = should not; could've = could have (NOT "could of"'!)
Caution! Some possessives and contractions sound alike (you're/your, they're/their, it's/its). Do not confuse these words when writing. See the examples below.
Incorrect: I hope your going to join us for dinner.
Correct: I hope you're going to join us for dinner.
Incorrect: Their going to Koh Samui for the holiday vacation.
Correct: They're going to Koh Samui for the holiday vacation.
Incorrect: Its probably going to rain today.
Correct: It's probably going to rain today.
Quick tip: When using a contraction, if you are unsure whether the form chosen by you is correct, or whether a tricky similar-sounding form is applicable, simply try saying the statement aloud as it would sound without the contraction form in place to see if the statement makes sense. Example: It's the last day of the sale at Central. Say aloud, "It is the last day of the sale at Central". This makes sense, so the contraction used in this statement is correct.
Determine whether the italicised contractions in the statements below are correct or not.
1. It's a sign of good luck to find a gecko in your house.
2. Have you're students completed the exam?
3. They're not going to attend the show.
Answers: 2. Incorrect, 1. Correct, 3. Correct
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Her email address is
Heather Vlach is an English-language specialist and Intensive Studies educator at International School Bangkok in Nonthaburi. Her email address firstname.lastname@example.org .
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