When do I place the apostrophe after the “s,” and when does it go before the “s”? I feel like I once knew the rules, but now I’m in the habit of relying on autocorrect,and my professor marked errors in my paper :-/


First off, let’s review the two uses of apostrophes:

  1. To replace letters in conjunctions: can’t, won’t, couldn’t. (Note that contractions should not be used in most academic writing).
  2. For possessives, which show a relationship of ownership: John’s car, the children’s lunches, the employees’ timecards, family members’ ages.


  1. For possessives of singular nouns and plural nouns that do not end in “s,” the apostrophe goes before the “s”: John’s car, the children’s lunches.
  2. For possessives of plural nouns ending in “s,” the apostrophe goes after the “s”: employees’ timecards, family members’ ages.


  1. The one possessive that does not need an apostrophe is “its”: The salesperson showed us the phone and its features. (“It’s” is the contraction of “it is.”)
  2. There are sometimes exceptions for proper nouns ending in “s”: Names ending with an unpronounced “s” and Greek names ending in “-es” may get just an apostrophe even though they are singular (Camus’ plays, Socrates’ disciples). However, these exceptions may be implemented differently by different style guides or publications.

Need a quick-reference resources for apostrophe rules? This infographic is the best!