Capital letters and apostrophes

Do you know how to use capital letters and apostrophes correctly? Test what you know with interactive exercises and read the explanation to help you.

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

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Submitted by aeg on Mon, 28/11/2022 - 21:40

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Hi,
Could you please help me, I have some doubts regarding capital letters
The British Royal Family or the British royal family
King Charles, The King ( Charles), the king
He served in the Navy ... He served in The Royal Navy, or He served in the navy.
Thank you so much

Hello aeg,

I'm afraid there's no simple answer to this, as different publishers prefer different options. In general, though, most of the time people capitalise the title when it goes with the name, so, for example, 'King Charles' is correct and 'king Charles' is not. But if we are simply referring to the position, often we don't capitalise, e.g. 'I saw the king on the telly'. Or he served in the navy (no title) or He served in the Royal Navy (official title).

As far as I understand, at the British Council and in other organisations, however, we do capitalise titles without names -- so we say 'the King', for example. You can see some examples of this on this page if you're interested.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Jasim Raza on Wed, 03/08/2022 - 19:40

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"The poet depicts the love of a mother bird for her young one's who are very small and only a few days old."
Please correct this sentence and also give reason.

Hello Jasim Raza,

'young one's' is not correct in this case because there is no possession. This phrase is an object of the preposition 'for' that refers to the mother's children, so it should be 'young ones'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by SaraZaber on Sun, 26/06/2022 - 08:26

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Hello,
Which of these two sentences are correct and why?
How will I apply apostrophe rule here to non living things?

My school name is xyz.
My school's name is xyz.

Can I write - My city's name is xyz

Hello SaraZaber,

I would say 'The name of my school is XYZ', though I wouldn't say it's wrong to say 'my school's name'. The same is true of 'The name of my city', though in this case 'My city's name' sounds a little more unnatural.

As the explanation above points out, normally we use 's in this way with people, animals or groups of people. One can certainly conceive of a school or city as a group of people, but in the end, people tend to speak one way or another. It's also important to consider what the purpose of the sentence is, that is, why you are saying it. This could influence the best way to say it.

Hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Dzibaan on Thu, 07/04/2022 - 13:41

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Hi,

During the course you explain:

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

In your example, we talk about "our friends", in the plural, and in this case, we put the apostrophe at the end:

Our friends' new car is red. They just got it yesterday

In the second grammar test, we have a similar case:

All ___ accessories are on sale today.
women's
women

Here the answer is women's, and I can't understand why, as we refer to accessories for women in plural.

Thanks

Hello Dzibaan,

That's a good question! Note that the plural noun women does not end in s. This is the reason that the possessive form is women's and not *womens'.

In the same way, the possessive form of men is men's and that of children is children's.

Note, however, that other irregular plural nouns that do end in s have s' for their possessive ending: thief (singular), thieves (plural), thieves' honour (possessive s' on plural noun) or wife (singular), wives (plural), an old wives' tale (possessive s' on plural noun).

Hope that makes sense.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Fri, 01/04/2022 - 20:25

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Hello. In a book, I have read the following piece of information and two examples:
"Don’t use a hyphen if the compound adjective follows the noun it describes.
- Smart phones are widely used all over the world.
- The Arabic language is widely spoken in all the villages.
First: Is this correct?
Second: Can I write these compound adjectives coming after nouns with hyphens?
- Smart phones are widely-used all over the world.
- The Arabic language is widely-spoken in all the villages.
Thank you.