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Apostrophes and plurals

There is *one* extremely rare case in which we use apostrophes to make things plural. David and Paige, KA's resident grammarians, discuss this unusual case.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user James Vial
    So maybe I'm off target here, but another situation to use an apostrophe to pluralize, is to pluralize ownership. like for example "They are playing in the boys' room."
    (8 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Polina Vitić
      Yes, you're correct - the position of the apostrophe can be used to denote either singular or plural possession.

      Singular possession
      - possessive noun is singular
      - apostrophe is placed before the s

      Plural possession
      - possessive noun is plural
      - apostrophe is placed after the s

      Some examples:
      - This Boy's Life: A Memoir (singular; about one boy)
      - Boys' Life magazine (plural; for all boys)

      - dog's journey (singular; one dog)
      - dogs' journey (plural; group of dogs)

      - violin's tone (singular; one violin)
      - violins' tone (plural; many violins)

      - bird's song (singular; one bird)
      - birds' song (plural; more than one bird)

      Hope this helps!
      (26 votes)
  • old spice man blue style avatar for user lawrencepar4996
    why does Paige say you can learn anything?
    (3 votes)
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  • starky sapling style avatar for user Namartinez1523
    Would i want to use an apostrophe for time frame like the 40s
    (4 votes)
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    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Polina Vitić
      Yes, you could use an apostrophe to abbreviate 1940s to '40s.

      See how the apostrophe replaces the "19" part? That's how you remember where to put it.

      1940s ---> '40s

      Here are some more examples:
      - Bell-bottoms were popular back in the '70s.
      - Most films from the '50s are black and white.
      - My uncle Alex gave me his vintage Nintendo from the '80s.

      Hope this helps!
      (4 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user panvita
    What if you are referring to the letter A at the beginning of a sentence? What if you said, "A's are the most used vowel in the English language?" On one hand, all sentences must start with a capital letter. On the other hand, this video is proposing that capital letters should never have an apostrophe. Which is correct?
    (3 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      That all sentences must start with a capital letter is a rule that is disputed by very few, and is common throughout English, and a bunch of other languages too. If you break this rule without a good reason, most people that read your writing will look at you funny afterwards. On the other hand, when the video says that capital letters shouldn't have apostrophes, it's talking about a style choice that less people follow and is less known. Put the apostrophe on the capital letter. Personally, I don't see much wrong with apostrophes with capital letters in general, so I think it's a matter of what seems clearest to you. Generally, you should probably always use apostrophes on letters like A and U, because if you don't, they might be misconstrued as "as" and "us" instead of "A's" and "U's"
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user chenjannkaitlyn
    I have a question what if the i became consonant ? Example H's can it be like this ?
    (3 votes)
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  • aqualine seed style avatar for user Amili
    At Paige says gonna. I know gonna is actually going to but I just don't know why it takes out all those letters and then add some other letters in. I know that it is way easier to say gonna than to say going to but it
    just feels a bit weird to me.
    (2 votes)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      There are two things to consider here: 1) Yes, we all say "gonna", but don't write it that way in your parole application, OK.
      2) When you listen again, note that sometimes the computer generated closed captions (if you use them) are less than 100% accurate. I've no doubt that Paige said "gonna" (she's a Californian, like me), but when there's a discrepancy between what the closed captions guess and what your ears have heard, go with the ears.
      (2 votes)
  • old spice man green style avatar for user 时若斯/anonymous
    Can't you say"The babies' toys are too complex for them."?
    (1 vote)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user JoshuaDV
      Yes, that sentence is grammatically correct. In what you wrote, you're dealing with a possessive, "the babies' toys," since you can ask "Whose toys?" and answer, "the babies'." This video is only dealing with the rare instances where you may need to use an apostrophe with a plural noun in order to ensure clarity.
      (3 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Sarah Wing
    CDs or DVDs or MP3s or whatever you kids are listening to these days
    Um...
    (2 votes)
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  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Jashan Goyal
    Mam what is correct
    dinosaurs'
    dinosaurs
    dinosaur's
    (1 vote)
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    • female robot amelia style avatar for user Johanna
      Any of those can be correct, depending on the context in which it is used.

      “Dinosaurs” is just a plural noun, meaning it refers to more than one dinosaur. For example: “The dinosaurs went mostly extinct around 66 million years ago.”

      “Dinosaur’s” is singular possessive, meaning it talks about something that belongs to just one dinosaur. For example: “This dinosaur’s tail was two feet long.”

      “Dinosaurs’” is plural possessive, meaning it talks about something that belongs to more than one dinosaur. For example: “Many dinosaurs’ brains were adapted to process a lot of information from their sense of smell.”

      Does that help?
      (3 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user GeekyGirl
    Ok... darn loopholes.
    What if you've got a sentence where your character or whoever is speaking is, say, yelling, and you want to put it in all caps? If the sentence was lowercase, you would say "darn i's." But, because it's all caps, "DARN I'S!" Would you still not put an apostrophe? Even thought the "s" is uppercase, too? I know, weird question.
    (2 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user JoshuaDV
      Of course, in academic writing, you'd never use all capitals, but to answer your question with what I would do (and this sort of thing is pretty subjective depending on the style you use; the main goal is to keep as much clarity as possible), I might write that exclamation like "DARN i'S!" with the lowercase "i." This just helps the reader grap the idea that you're talking about the letter "i." Really, no matter what way you put it in that order, as long as the word "i's" doesn't start the sentence, you do need that apostrophe.
      (0 votes)

Video transcript

- [Paige] Hello Grammarians, Hello David. - [David] Hello Paige. - [Paige] So today, we're gonna talk about apostrophes and plurals. We talked about this a little bit in our Introduction to the Apostrophe video. This is a very, very rare case, where we use an apostrophe to show that something is plural, and it almost never happens, but we will explain when it does. - [David] Paige, when is the one time in this immense and wonderful galaxy of English when the stars align for it to be permissible to pluralize something with an apostrophe? - [Paige] That one time is when you are pluralizing a lower case letter. If you're saying something like, "You need to remember " to always dot your i's," where you're talking about the letter I, and there are several of them, you're gonna put an apostrophe before the S. - [David] OK, so that's to prevent it from looking like is, right, 'cause if we didn't have that apostrophe in there, it would just be the word is. There's no way to tell I's from the word is in that case. - [Paige] Right, and you need to remember to always dot your is, doesn't make any sense. - [David] Right. - [Paige] This apostrophe can look like it's making the letter I possessive, but it's really just there to make it clear that this is a plural I and not is. - [David] So this is the only case. If it were upper case letters, you wouldn't do this, right. If you were saying David's capital As look like trees. It's less likely that you're gonna gonna confuse capital A, lower case S in the middle of a sentence for the word as. - [Paige] Right, 'cause you wouldn't just capitalize the word as in the middle of a sentence. - [David] Right. So this is for only lower case letters, the little ones, the inside voice. (laughing) Paige, that's it, right? - [Paige] Yeah. - [David] That's the only exception, that's the only time you use apostrophes to form the plural, no other time. So if you're talking about, doesn't matter, if you're talking about CDs, or DVDs, or MP3s, or whatever you kids are listening to these days, it doesn't matter, there's no need for an apostrophe in any of these places. - [Paige] Right, 'cause that's pretty clear. - [David] You just use a lower case S, but if you're trying to talk about multiple lower case letters, then you use an apostrophe. - [Paige] Yeah, so if you're trying to figure out how to make something plural, and you're like, "Do I use an apostrophe?" No, unless it's a lower case letter. You can learn anything. - [David] David out. - [Paige] Paige out.