Use of Apostrophes in Contractions: ACT® English Test

vector illustration of Tiny Characters Correcting Mistakes and Errors on Test Written on Huge Paper.

The English section of the ACT® test examines your skills with standard English conventions. Standard English Convention questions on the ACT test assess your knowledge of punctuation rules. 

As a part of this, you will be tested on how to use apostrophes in contractions. So what are contractions? They are shortened versions of words or a group of words. As a result of this, there are certain letters and sounds that are omitted from the word. This is where apostrophes come in — they are added to contractions to represent the missing letter or sound.

Here is a breakdown of what you need to know about using apostrophes with contractions:

1. Is it a contraction or is it a possessive? 

This is important to decipher when evaluating the placement of the apostrophe. Most especially when you come across an underlined text that includes “it’s.” If “it’s” is used as possessive, then you need to make a correction. “it’s” is a contraction of “it is,” and using an apostrophe to show the possession of “it” is incorrect.

Error: Its been raining all day long.
Correction: It’s been raining all day long. 

2. Are there grammar errors?

Their, they’re, there

Interchanging these forms completely shifts the meaning and logic of the word and thereby the sentence. Remember, “their” is a possessive. “They’re” is a contraction of “they are.” “There” is used to denote a place. It is also used as an exclamation. 

Error: That car is there’s.
Correction: That car is theirs.

Could of, could’ve

Using “could of” in place of “could have” is a common error. The phrases sound very similar, so this might be a tricky error to catch if you are unaware of it. “Could of” should always be “could have.” The same rules go for “would of” and “should of.” You can correct the use of “could of,” “would of,” and “should of” by replacing them with “could have” or “would have,” “should have,” or “could’ve,” and “would’ve” or “should’ve.”

Error: She could of done better had she practiced more.
Correction: She could’ve better had she practiced more. 

Error: He would of been proud of his daughter.
Correction: He would’ve been proud of his daughter.

Error: They should of been back by now.
Correction: They should’ve been back by now. 

Your, you’re

“Your” is the possessive form and “you’re” is a contraction of “you are.” Some errors occur with this possessive form. “Your’s” is never correct. This possessive form “yours” does not use an apostrophe.

Error: This shirt is your’s.

Correction: This shirt is yours

Whose, who’s

Whose is the possessive form of “who,” while “who’s” is a contraction of “who is.” You can check whether the correct form is used by replacing “who’s” with “who is.” ”

Error: Who’s house is this?
Correction: Whose house is this?

Error: Whose going to  the concert this weekend?
Correction: Who’s going to the concert this weekend?

As you prepare for the ACT English test, be sure that you review these rules to understand how to use apostrophes in contractions. When you come across a word that uses an apostrophe, ask, is it a contraction or is it possessive? You need to also assess if there are any grammar errors as outlined above. 

You can test your skills on the use of apostrophes in ACT English UWorld’s ACT Prep Course. The prep course offers thousands of realistic sample questions. You can use them to gain valuable experience with the style and level of difficulty you will face on the official ACT test. The prep course also offers performance tracking tools that can provide you with valuable data about the questions, sections, and subsections that you can improve the most. 

By focusing on these areas, you are sure to boost your scores. Our prep course also offers resources like detailed answer explanations, which offer the opportunity to deepen your understanding about questions you have erred on or questions that require more complicated skills. This includes answer explanations for questions related to the use of apostrophes in ACT English. Try it out to boost your performance on the ACT English test! 

Scroll to Top