What does the 's mean?

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,060 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭

The apostrophe in English often causes problems for students.

Our site is "Scott's English Success". This sentence, "Tom's cat's orange" is correct when spoken. (NOTE: We at SES strongly discourage the use of contractions in formal writing - read here)

"He's been to the store and is back now" and "She's going to Canada to live next year" are also correct.

The " 's" can mean possession, such as in Scott's English Success. You will know it is possession because the " 's " is always followed by a noun. "Tom's cat" means "the cat that Tom owns". 

" ' s" can also mean "is". Tom's cat is orange. This is a spoken form only! "She is going to Canada to live next year." 

The third usage is "has". If the word following the " 's " is a past participle, then you know the " 's " is replacing has. "He has been to the store and is back now."

BE CAREFUL: There is one exception, the words "its" and "it's". "Its" (no apostrophe) is the possessive form, while "it's", with an apostrophe, means "it is" or "it has". "Its walls are falling down" - possession; "It's a new day" - it is, "It's been a long time" - it has.

Choose possession, is or has in the following sentences:

1. We at Scott's English Success want you to succeed on your exam!
2. She's never been to Ireland, yet she's traveled all over Europe.
3. He's not going to be able to finish the work on time.
4. Pat's sick today and can't go to school.
5. Paul's just bought a new dog!
6.  It's been five weeks now since we moved.
7. John's new job is in the city centre.
8. She's bringing cake today because it's her birthday.
9. It's never been tried before, but why not?
10. The doctor's office is in a dangerous section of town.

Click here for the correct answers:

1. We at Scott's English Success want you to succeed on your exam! - possession
2. She has never been to Ireland, yet she has traveled all over Europe.
3. He is not going to be able to finish the work on time.
4. Pat is sick today and can't go to school.
5. Paul has just bought a new dog!
6.  It has been five weeks now since we moved.
7. John's new job is in the city centre. - possession
8. She is bringing cake today because it is her birthday.
9. It,has never been tried before, but why not?
10. The doctor's office is in a dangerous section of town. - possession

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