Using Apostrophes to Replace Missing Letters (Grammar Lesson)
The Quick AnswerAn apostrophe can be used to replace a letter (or letters). For example:
- isn't (from is not)
- don't (from do not)
- can't (from cannot)
Apostrophes Replace Missing LettersAn apostrophe can be used to show that a letter (or letters) is missing from a word.
Using an apostrophe to replace a missing letter is not common in formal writing, where you'd expect all words to be written in full. (Using an apostrophe to replace a letter is extremely common, but it is generally reserved for informal writing. It is used to reflect how people speak.)
- The weather's bad. (Written in full: The weather is bad.)
- Don't think about it. (In full: Do not)
(In this example, the apostrophe replaces the letter i, and the two words are joined to make one. The new word is called contraction.)
In this example, the apostrophe replaces the letter o, and the two words are joined to make a contraction.)
Apostrophe error found in a Christmas cracker
- Alan can't deliver on Tuesdays. (In full: cannot)
- If you don't fail now and again, it's a sign you're playing it safe. (Woody Allen) (In full: do not / it is / you are)
- Don't look now, but there's one too many in this room, and I think it's you. (Groucho Marx) (In full: do not / there is / it is)
- Blood's not thicker than money. (Groucho Marx) (In full: blood is)
- Sally is'nt able to complete her work. (Should be: isn't)
Only Use Apostrophes to Replace Letters in Standard ContractionsWhen an apostrophe replaces a letter, a new word is formed (most often, but not always, using the remaining letters of the original words). The new word is called a contraction.
You cannot invent your own contractions. Here is a list of common contractions in English:
|he'd||he had, he would|
|he'll||he will, he shall|
|he's||he is, he has|
|I'd||I had, I would|
|I'll||I will, I shall|
|it's||it is, it has|
|she'd||she had, she would|
|she'll||she will, she shall|
|she's||she is, she has|
|that's||that is, that has|
|there's||there is, there has|
|they'd||they had, they would|
|they'll||they will, they shall|
|we'd||we had, we would|
|what'll||what will, what shall|
|what's||what is, what has|
|where's||where is, where has|
|who'd||who had, who would|
|who'll||who will, who shall|
|who's||who is, who has|
|you'd||you had, you would|
|you'll||you will, you shall|
Do Not Confuse You're and YourYou're is short for you are. For example:
- You're a naughty boy.
- The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you're still a rat. (Lily Tomlin)
- This is your PC.
- This is you're PC.
- Your a star. (This should be you're.)
Do Not Confuse It's and ItsIt's is short for it has or it is. (There are no other uses.) For example:
- It's stopped raining, and it's sunny. (It has stopped raining, and it is sunny.)
- I'm near the whale. I can see its tail.
- This is it's fourth journey. This should be its.)
- Its as easy as falling off a log. This should be It's.)
- A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. (Winston Churchill)
Do Not Write Should OfShould've sounds like should of, but it is short for should have. (This is the same for could've and would've.)
- should of
- could of
- would of
Write Cannot As One WordAs an expansion of can't, cannot is one word.
- I can not stand in the rain for too long.
- A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. (Oscar Wilde)
- Rebecca can not only sing but dance too.
There Is No Apostrophe in OursWords like ours, theirs, yours, and hers do not have apostrophes in them.
- These books are ours.
- You can use our's.
- I saw theirs'.
DO Not Invent ContractionsWords with apostrophes that replace letters are known as contractions. You should only use recognized ones:
- g'tar (replacing the ui in guitar)
- potato's (replacing the e in potatoes)
Write Contractions in Full in Business WritingIn business writing, it is unusual to use contractions because they can make your writing look too informal. It is a good practice to play it safe and write all words in their full forms.
- Therefore, the delivery date can't be met. (Not wrong but possibly too informal)
- It's available for collection on Tuesday. (Not wrong but possibly too informal)