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: 4.2 (83 votes)

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.

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Submitted by Ahmed Imam on Mon, 28/02/2022 - 19:48

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Hello. Could you please help me? I have just read the following quote:
"In British English, full stops are placed outside the final quotation mark.
Ex: - The general manager said, ”This is a great day for the company”.
Is this information correct?
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Actually, it depends on what is being quoted.

  • If the quotation is a complete sentence, then the full stop goes before (not after) the closing quotation mark. (This is the opposite of the advice that you mention in your comment.) For more information see these explanations from the BBC and Lexico (Oxford Dictionary).
  • If the quotation is a word or phrase, then the closing quotation mark comes first, and then the full stop.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. Thank you for your reply.
Could you provide a link for these explanations from the BBC and Lexico (Oxford Dictionary).
Thank you.

Hi Ahmed Imam,

Actually, they are already linked in the message above. Just click on BBC and Lexico.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GiulianaAndy on Fri, 09/07/2021 - 01:26

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Hello again, excuse me I have a lot of questions in English. Here I have some more: 1) How can I know what word in a book tittle I have to capitalize, for example: "The Land Before Time", "Gone With the Wind", "The Catcher in the Rye", "The Princess and the Frog" and "Diary of a Wimpy Kind". They are all book tittles; however, I don't understand why some prepositions are capitalized such as "Before, with" and others not such as "in, of". Could you help me with my issue, please? And also I have another question: Why the articles "a" and "the" are not capitalized in those book tittles?

Hello GiulianaAndy,

This is a question of convention rather than grammatical rule. The convention is that grammar words (articles, prepostions and conjunctions) tend not to be capitalised, but different writers/publishers may vary in terms of the style they prefer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team