The ACT English test loves to test all sorts of punctuation, but especially apostrophes. Check out the video for everything you need to know about grammar rules for apostrophes on the test. Here’s the gist:
Apostrophes are used for two different purposes:
To show possession: Mary’s books.
For contractions: would not → wouldn’t.
Most of the apostrophe questions on the test will have to do with the first case: possession and also a few special cases that people always mess up (I’m looking at you, it’s its.)
If a singular noun is “possessing” something, the apostrophe goes before the “s”. For example, the dog’s bone, the ventriloquist’s puppets. Remember that a collective noun, such as “team” or “company”, even though they might be made up of people are singular. So if one team has a bus, it’s the “team’s bus.”
…but if multiple teams share a bus, it’s the “teams’ bus.” This is because for plural nouns, the apostrophe comes after the “s”. So “the girls’ jackets” let’s us know we are talking about multiple girls with multiple jackets, not one girl with an envious boatload of jackets (that would be “girl’s jackets”).
The exceptions to the apostrophe rule
I’m grouping in these commonly confused words with this little lesson on apostrophes because they include apostrophes, and well, lots of times when you see apostrophes on the ACT, it’s really about these commonly confused words. And they are commonly confused because they are exceptions to the rule about using apostrophes to show possession. When you are dealing with the pronouns its, whose, and your, these pronouns actually already show possession. And their sneaky shadow doubles with the apostrophes are actually contractions.
Here’s a refresher:
Its vs it’s
Its = the possessive pronoun
It’s = it is
Whose vs who’s
Whose = possessive pronoun
Who’s = who is
Your vs. you’re
Your = possessive pronoun
You’re = you are
If you are ever not sure which one to choose, try reading in the full expression for the contraction into the sentence and see if it makes sense. Let’s say you see: “The dancing skeleton picked up it’s scattered bones.” Does “The dancing skeleton picked up it is scattered bones” make sense? No, so the answer is “its”, not “it’s”.