Here are some simple rules about when to use apostrophes:
One of the primary uses for the apostrophe (‘) is to connect TWO things together (like a paper clip – hey, it even kind of looks like a mini-paper clip)! An apostrophe is used to connect two words. This frequently happens when connecting a pronoun (such as “I,” “you,” “it,” etc.) and a form of “to be” (such as “am,” “is,” “are,” etc.).
Take a look at these examples of how an apostrophe holds two words together:
I + AM = I’m
IT + IS = It’s
YOU + ARE = You’re
(This also holds true with forms of “to have” and “would”).
Pronouns with an extra letter attached but no apostrophe are used to convey possession (as in words like “its,” “your,” etc.)
A quick way to remember the difference is to think, if you can say the same sentence with either a contraction or two separate words, including a pronoun and “is” or “are” in the contraction’s place, you need to use an apostrophe.
(I’m finished = I am finished; You are funny = You’re funny).
If you’re talking about something that belongs to the pronoun (Its, your, etc.), then no apostrophe is needed because you aren’t connecting two different words
(I like its color = I like the color that belongs to it;
I borrowed your pencil = I borrowed the pencil that belongs to you).
I think the confusion comes from the fact that we do use an apostrophe plus -s to express possession when we are using proper nouns (names) and common nouns (people, places, and things) but NOT when we are using pronouns (you, it, he, I, etc.).
Voila! Now you can easily tell when to use an apostrophe and when you don’t need one. That small little paper-clip looking symbol changes the meanings of your words!
If you’ve (i.e., “you have”) seen these kinds of mistakes online (and even in print), share this post so that we can teach the world this valuable lesson.