Contraction Confusion

Mar 9, 2008 | Grammar and Usage, Proofreading, Punctuation

Contraction Confusion

What are contractions, and how do you use contractions correctly? Contractions are words that use apostrophes to indicate that letters and/or numbers have been omitted. Below is a list to help you lean which is correct: it’s or its, your or you’re, and whose or who’s; and you’ll also learn whether to use an apostrophe 1) when you’re writing a year, 2) when you’re writing plural words like women’s or children’s, 3) when to use an apostrophe for abbreviations like CDs, 4) and more!

Its vs. it’s

Its is possessive; i.e., “Its nose was large.” It’s is the contraction for it is. “It’s the biggest I’ve ever seen.”

Your vs. you’re

Again, your is possessive; i.e., “Pick up your bike or you’re going to be in trouble.” You’re is the contraction for you are.

Whose vs. who’s

Whose is possessive; i.e., “Whose books are on the floor?” Who’s is the contraction for who is; i.e., “Guess who’s coming for dinner?”

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’60 is the contraction for 1960. Always remember to reverse the apostrophe when the beginning of a word or number is omitted. (To reverse the apostrophe, enter it twice; then delete the first apostrophe so it will curve the correct way.)

Apostrophes are also used when forming plurals of lowercase letters, i.e., i’s and t’s. The reason for this is more appearance than grammatical. Below are some examples.

  do’s and don’ts
1970s (no apostrophe)
  a’s and b’s
CDs (no apostrophe)
IBMs (no apostrophe)

Examples of using apostrophes after a plural possessive noun ending in s:

  children’s (e.g., children’s books)
  ladies’ (e.g., ladies’ room)

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