When the thing owned is elsewhere

Sometimes apostrophes occur in such a way as to indicate belonging, or ownership of something, identified at another place in the sentence or paragraph.

It used to be Darryl's car but now it is Neil's.

Oliver Cromwell's was the most popular trophy on display that day.

The current pass rate is higher than last year.

Apostrophes when more than one person owns something

When you are wanting to indicate the ownership of more than one person you need only use the apostrophe on the second name. This depends a little on the relationship of those involved (or the association between them that we make intuitively).

We can meet at my Mum and Dad's house.

National and Labour's education policy differs only in degree.

We had accidentally taken John and Margaret's seats on the train.

However, if there is no obvious or intuitive relationship between the two people or objects in question put an apostrophe after both names.

The most visited paintings in the Louvre are Picasso's and van Gogh's.

Apostrophes replacing missing letters

There are variations and stylistic preferences when using apostrophes with dates, requiring a little thought.

The colours in 1970s movies tend to be less distinct than in later decades.

The colours in '70s movies tend to be less distinct than in later decades.

While it is arguable that the movies belong to the 1970s and so need an apostrophe, popular usage treats this differently and 1970 is used to describe the movies. See this happen also in the following instances: teachers college, a parents evening at school.

However, you might use an apostrophe when talking about a specific year.

The songs at the top of 1978's music charts was only lightly influenced by punk.

Apostrophes and plural nouns - advanced

Let's consider some unusal spellings:
Consider the word "children". It is the plural of "child".

The sound of the children's laughter could be heard in the playground.

Other words with this unusual spelling for the plural are: oxen, men, women, and brethren,there are many other non-standard plural nouns. If in doubt you need to check (perhaps online) how they use the possessive '~s'

Other words to watch for are words that end in double ~ss, such as dress, class, or glass. As Paige explains, they usually become plural by adding ~es, so class becomes classes, and an apostrophe is added to make the possessive.

The schedule for all the classes' timetables was problematic.

Watch out for potato → potatoes, and tomato → tomatoes. Knowing what you now know about using apostrophes, how do you think you would talk about the skin of the potatoes?

Important note: The plural spelling of apostrophe is apostrophes (with no apostrophe in it). Be really careful not to add an apostrophe to your word just because you think the plural spelling looks odd.

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