the word 'English'
Blog March 17, 2016 by

St Giles

Common Apostrophe Mistakes for ESL Learners

the word 'English'

As an ESL (English as a Second Language) learner, you will want to know how to correctly use an apostrophe. The incorrect use of apostrophes is a simple mistake to make, so it is important to learn and remember the rules. Below, please find some rules about apostrophe usage and examples that will help you to understand them.

Apostrophes Are Used To Indicate Possession


Kelly’s hat is blue.

Here are some exceptions to this rule:

  • If it is plural and possessive: The students’ graduation caps were blue.
  • If the possessive name ends in the letter “s”: James’ hat is blue.
  • Don’t use apostrophes in possessive pronouns such as:
  • His
  • Hers
  • Ours
  • Yours
  • Mine
  • My
  • Their
  • Theirs

Apostrophes Generally Aren’t Used For Words That Are Plural

ESL learners need to remember that apostrophes are rarely used for words that are plural.

Example: Those bees will sting you if you approach them.

Here are some exceptions to this rule:

  • Numbers or abbreviations: I enjoy ‘90s music.
  • Single Letter Words: How many p’s are in the word “hippopotamus”?

Apostrophes Are Used In Contractions

Examples: I can’t eat legumes because I am allergic to them.

There are no exceptions this rule; apostrophes are always used in contractions.

Here are some other examples:

  • It’s going to be a long night.
  • He’s refusing to speak to her.
  • I don’t want to get up early tomorrow.
  • He wouldn’t understand how important opera music is to me.

Hopefully, this has helped you to understand how to correctly use apostrophes. With practice, you will avoid mistakes and improve your writing.

For more information or to schedule an English language course, contact St Giles.