Lisa's week

  • Lingua Solutions

  • /
  • Lisa's week: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

lisas week teaser

Lisa's week: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

It may be one of the smallest punctuation symbols but the apostrophe is really quite important in English.

The apostrophe is mainly used to represent missing letters in contracted words or to show possession. Simple, right? The basics really are relatively simple so let’s have a look at these two uses.

Today I’m going to share the use of the apostrophe in contracted words and then next week, come back for part 2 where we’ll discuss the ins and outs of showing possession using an apostrophe.


This is where, generally in spoken or informal English, we bring two (or more) words together, take out some letters and add an apostrophe to represent what is missing.

Examples include

I am --> I’m

You are --> You’re

It is --> It’s

He is --> He’s

You will --> you’ll

We would --> We’d

They are --> They’re

Of the clock --> o’clock

Does not --> Doesn’t

Should not --> Shouldn’t

Rock and roll --> Rock ‘n’ roll

Remember that sometimes, the apostrophe can also represent different letters in contractions according to the grammatical context. You can see what word it should be in full by looking at the tense reflected it the sentence.

Now this is confusing so let me show you what I mean…

1a. It’s snowing. They’re going to go out and build a snowman! = It is snowing. They are going to go out and build a snowman. (Using present continuous)

1b. He’s done his homework so now he’s finished for the day. He can go and play football. = He has done his homework so now he has finished for the day. He can go and play football. (Using present perfect)

2a. I’d like two bread rolls and a coffee, please. = I would like two bread rolls and a coffee, please. (Using the polite way to ask for something)

2b. We’d been walking down the road when suddenly the heavens opened and it started to rain. = We had been walking down the road when suddenly the heavens opened and it started to rain. (Using the past perfect)

Remember to use the apostrophe ONLY in the position of the missing letters.

Please also remember that there are some words that look or sound similar to a contracted combination but the meaning is very different. So make sure to use the correct form of:

1a. “your” - Is this your book?

1b. “you’re” - You are happy today!


2a. “their” - Their house is really big.

2b. “there” - Look over there. What is that?

2c. “they’re” – They are winning the game!


3a. “were” - We were so tired after the journey so all we wanted to do was sleep.

3b “we’re” - We are going on holiday next week.


4a. “well” – He was ill last week but he is well again now.

4b. “we’ll” – We’ll be away next week so can you look after our goldfish?

Come back next week for part 2 where we’ll look at how to show how things belong to each other using the possessive apostrophe.


What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day