You are here

Capital letters and apostrophes

Do you know how to use capital letters and apostrophes correctly?

Look at these examples to see how capital letters and apostrophes are used.

India celebrates Independence Day on 15 August.
Adam speaks English, Arabic and some Persian.
It's really cold today! They say it'll snow tonight.
Jane's staying at her parents' house this week.

Try this exercise to test your grammar.

Grammar test 1

Capital letters and apostrophers: Grammar test 1

Grammar explanation

Capitalisation

There are lots of times when you need to use capital letters – for example, to start a sentence or for the pronoun I. Here are some other important rules for using them.

Days, months and holidays

We capitalise days of the week, months and festivals, but not seasons.

His birthday party is on Thursday.
Schools are closed at Christmas.
It rains a lot in April and May, but the summer is very dry.

Names of people and places

We capitalise the names of people and places, including streets, planets, continents and countries.

Bea Jankowski has lived on Church Street in Manchester for 20 years.
The Earth is the third planet from the Sun.
Russia is in both Europe and Asia.

Words that come from the names of places – for example languages, nationalities and adjectives that refer to people or things from a country, region or city – are capitalised. We also capitalise nouns and adjectives that come from the names of religions.

Some Canadians speak French.
Londoners eat a lot of Indian food.
Most Muslims fast during the day for Ramadan.

Titles and names of institutions

The names of organisations and usually the important words in book and film titles are capitalised. When a person's job title goes before their name, capitalise both. If the title is separate from their name, capitalise only their name.

Salome Zourabichvili, the president of Georgia, is visiting President Alvi tomorrow.
The chief executive officer lives in New York.
We are reading
War and Peace with Ms Ioana, our teacher.

Apostrophes

We use an apostrophe to show a contraction or possession.

Contractions

We use an apostrophe to show where there are missing letters in contractions.

It's raining. (It's = It is)
Don't worry, it won't rain. (Don't = Do not; won't = will not)
She can't drive because she's broken her leg. (can't = cannot; she's = she has)
I'd like a coffee, please. (I'd = I would)
You'll be fine. (You'll = You will)

** Note that it's is a contraction of it is or it has. its is a possessive form of the pronoun it.

The dog is chasing its tail.
Are you sure it's OK for me to ring you so early?
It's rained a lot this week.

Possession

We also use an apostrophe with the letter s after a noun (normally a person, animal or group) to show that the noun owns someone or something.

My cat's favourite toy is a small, red ball.
Sadiq's parents live in Liverpool.

South Korea's economy is growing. 

Singular or plural

We use 's when the possessor is singular.

Marie's mother is going to Hong Kong.

We also use 's when the possessor is a plural noun that does not end in s.

The People's Republic of China
My cousin writes children's books.

When a plural noun ends in s, we put the apostrophe after the s (s').

This is a picture of my parents' house.
Our friend's new car is red. She just got it yesterday.
Our friends' new car is red. They just got it yesterday.

When a singular noun ends in s, we generally use 's.

James's brother-in-law is German.
He has a collection of Dickens's novels.

Do this exercise to test your grammar again.

Grammar test 2

Capital letters and apostrophers: Grammar test 2

Language level

Intermediate: B1

Comments

While doing test I was confused a bit, but looking at grammar explanations I got my self-confidence and the results were excellent.

Hi,
I would like to know whether writing " the City of Espoo" and city being capitalize is grammatically correct?
Thanks in advance.

Hi Catarinagds,

We don't capitalise city in phrases like this.

The exception is in the phrase the City of London, but that refers to a particular district in London, not the city itself.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Sir
Re: commas
I have the difficulty to understand when we use a 'comma' and when not.
Please help in this matter.
e.g. I love cake, but I hate chocolate.
Lee can sing , and he can dance.

Hello Sir
Re: commas
I ran fast, but missed the train.
Our hoard is little, but our hearts are great.
God made the country and man made the town.
The first two have commas, but the third has no comma.
Please let me why it is so.
Thank you.
Regards
Lal
Although I use commas, when using 'and/ but' I don't know the reason
Please help me in this matter.
Thank you.
Regards
Lal

Hello Lal

I'm afraid we don't provide instruction on punctuation. I'd recommend you do an internet search for 'learn punctuation in English' or something similar -- there are loads of free resources out there.

Good luck!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear teacher,

Hello.

When we use the semicolon to join three sentences, shall we use 'semicolon' plus 'and' before the third sentence? For example,

"I played football; I visited the temple; and I slept."

Thanks,

Raj

Hello Raj

That is an issue of style, which means that you can get different answers from different people. But in general I would recommend using only one semi-colon per sentence. Occasionally people use multiple semi-colons when there is a list with complex items, but the sentence you provide is not an example of this.

You can learn a bit more about this on this grammarly page.

By the way, I noticed that you posted this same comment on three different pages. We ask that our users post their comments only once. Duplicate posts make the site more difficult to use for other users; keeping track of them takes us more time, which makes it more difficult for us to do our job. Please do not do this again.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

It's really helpful.