Capital letters and apostrophes

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

Average: 4.1 (74 votes)
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Submitted by Tayeb98 on Sun, 05/05/2024 - 07:53

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💯 percent success

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Submitted by JERRY ELEVEN on Fri, 29/12/2023 - 13:32

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Good lesson, 100%.

Submitted by Mahaj on Tue, 12/12/2023 - 12:50

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How to use the ; mark?

Hello Mahaj,

There are two mains uses of the semicolon. One is to join two independent clauses without using a subordinating conjunction (such as 'and'). For example, we could rewrite 'Jo had an apple and she gave half of it to Dan' as 'Jo had an apple; she gave half of it to Dan'. We could also write 'Jo had an apple. She gave half of it to Dan.' It's quite unusual to use a semicolon in informal or even neutral writing. We usually use a full stop or a conjunction instead.

The other use of a semicolon is to separate items in a list when the items are multiple words.

Hope this helps. There are lots of useful resources online if you do a search for 'how to use a semicolon'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by The_Eager_Eagle on Wed, 18/10/2023 - 12:29

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Hi there,
I'm writing a paper for a national exam here in Spain, and have to be very precise regarding grammar, punctuation, etc., as you may understand.
I have one question about capital letters, with which I'm a little bit confused:
I've seen articles where it mentions for example, "UK government", be it "government" in lower case. However, I've also read somewhere else where it reads something like "Welsh Government", with capital G.
I heard something that when you're specifying about a place or its name you must use capitals. But in the first case, "government" is written in lower case, which is confusing me...
I can see that there's something about it on "Titles and names of institutions", but If I'm not wrong, it doesn't say anything that clarifies my issue in there.
Could you please throw some light onto it for me? Thanks in advance!

Hi The_Eager_Eagle,

I'm afraid I don't have much light to throw! This is an area of usage where there is a lot of variation. A single system of spelling that is universally agreed may not exist. 

I agree with your observations that it's common to write "UK government" (small g) and "Welsh Government" (big G). However, this seems to be a convention, not a fixed rule. I had a quick look at the UK government's own website and I found that they mostly used "UK government" but I saw a few uses of "UK Government" too. I noticed that some style guides for writing recommend always using "government" with a small g. But the government of Hong Kong (for example) tends to write "Hong Kong Government".

As for what to do for your national exam, I can't really say what you should write, given the inconsistency in spelling. But perhaps you can look at some past papers or official materials to see how they are spelling "government".

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by binhminh on Sun, 24/09/2023 - 15:55

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lol i can't do this test quickly bc some time i confuse about name of people or name of month which is needed to written capitalize letter

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Sun, 06/08/2023 - 10:48

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Hello. Could you please help me as I'm really confused? Are all the three sentences correct? Why? Please explain more about all possibilities of this rule?
1- We've booked a three weeks' holiday.
2- We've booked a three weeks holiday.
3- We've booked a three-week holiday.
Thank you.

Hello Ahmed Imam,

Only 3 is correct. It's also possible to say something like 'We booked a holiday for three weeks', but I think most people would say 3 in most cases (I certainly would).

The phrase 'three-week' is a noun modifier, which you can read more about on our Noun modifiers and Possession and noun modifiers pages. It is indeed counter-intuitive that 'week' in 'a three-week holiday' is singular, but this is definitely correct and a very common error for learners to make. It might help to think of it as a kind of adjective, since essentially the first noun is acting as an adjective.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thank you so much.
are the following sentences correct? If so, what is the difference between them and No. 3?
- We've booked three weeks' holiday.
- We've booked three-week holidays
Thank you.