Possession (or belonging) is commonly shown with a possessive noun or pronoun.  

A POSSESSIVE NOUN is formed by adding an apostrophe and often (but not always) the letter s.

You always add “apostrophe + s”. . .

The book belongs to John. → That is John’s book.
the tail belonging to the fox → the fox’s tail
the grades belonging to the class → the class’s grade
the backpack belonging to Gus → Gus’s backpack

the bus’s passenger
. . . except for with plurals that end in s—and then you add just apostrophe:

the car belonging to the Joneses (the Jones family) → the Joneses’ car
the grades belonging to all the classes → all the classes’ grades
The two buses’ drivers were both skillful.

To remember how to form a possessive noun, you can sing this song:


POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS do not use apostrophes to show possession.

Here’s the list of possessive pronouns:
mine                         my
yours                        your
his/hers/its           his/her/its
ours                         our
theirs                      their

Does this book belong to Paula and Juan? Yes, it is theirs [NOT their’s].

The difference between it’s and its:

  • It’s is a contraction of it is or it has.

    It’s a lovely day.
    It’s been fun.

  • Its is possessive pronoun.

    The dog wagged its tail.

The difference between who’s and whose:

  • Who’s is a contraction of who is or who has.

    Who is the luckiest guy in the world → Who’s the luckiest guy in the world?
    Who has been to Florida? → Who’s been to Florida?

  • Whose is an interrogative pronoun (a pronoun that asks a question).

    Whose book is this?

You might find an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun, but only if the pronoun is part of a contraction.

My dog has a green collar.
Yeah, but mine’s* got a green leash.                           *mine has

My dog has a high IQ.
Yeah, but mine’s* smarter.                                            *mine is

For practice, here are a few online quizzes:
Apostrophes Quiz (hard)
Using the apostrophe

About the author:

Sarah earned a bachelor’s at Harvard and a master’s at Columbia, and she completed CalState’s teacher preparation program. She has taught and tutored for 16 years. You can find and book her for private tutoring in New York City on Smart Alec.

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