Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Basics: Possessive Pronouns

Time to call out another extremely common mistake:

ITS vs. IT'S

It boils down to a simple rule.  Which is:  POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS NEVER USE APOSTROPHES.

Admittedly, this rule means nothing to you if you don't know what a possessive pronoun is.  So let's spend a minute on this:

POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS are pronouns that show ownership.  As in, something BELONGS to someone or something.

In a sentence, a possessive pronoun acts as an ADJECTIVE, because it will always modify a noun:

HER novel
THEIR team
MY chocolate

So, here they are, in all their glory:

First person:

MY, MINE
OUR, OURS

Second person:

YOUR, YOURS

Third person:

HIS, HERS, ITS, THEIR, THEIRS

There it is, right in the middle of the last list:  ITS.  Meaning, "belonging to it."  NO APOSTROPHE.

NONE of the possessive pronouns have apostrophes.  NOT EVER.

So, what is IT'S all about?

IT'S is a CONTRACTION that stands for IT IS.  The apostrophe in a contraction always takes the place of missing letters.  In this instance, it takes the place of the letter i.

IT'S raining today.  (Meaning:  IT IS raining today.)

IT'S hard writing novels.  (Meaning:  IT IS hard writing novels.)

Clear?

If so, you'll see why it's ridiculous to say:

The baby fell asleep in it's crib.

The meaning of which is:  The baby fell asleep in IT IS crib.

And there's your litmus test.  Since IT'S always means IT IS, check by substituting IT IS for the IT'S in your sentence.  If it doesn't make sense, YOU'RE WRONG.

Because...POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS NEVER GET APOSTROPHES.

I understand why it's confusing.  "Normal" nouns get an apostrophe-S to connote ownership:

Authoress's chocolate
Lizzy's chocolate
Mad's black belt

But if you can remember that POSSESSIVE PRONOUNS NEVER GET APOSTROPHES, you will never use IT'S when you're supposed to use ITS.

Capiche?

7 comments:

  1. I always get it's and its mixed up. Thanks for the post!

    -Meredith
    Mint Tea and A Good Book

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  2. Golden post. A simple thing, but one that gets messed up consistently. Can a post on plural possessives be far behind?

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  3. You and Lizzy get chocolate, but Mad gets a black belt. Hehe. :)

    I made this mistake too, so... Thanks for clearing it up!

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  4. Technically "it's" also means "it has." I didn't know that until last year, so I was always trying to correct those it'ses (lol). BUT NOW I'VE SEEN THE LIGHT! :)

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  5. OOOO Taryn I love your brain! Yes, "it's" can also mean "it has", as in "it's been a good year" for "it has been a good year."

    Gold star! :)

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  6. English Pronouns is very important because its structure is used in every day conversation. The more you practice the subject, the closer you get to mastering the English language.

    Subject and Object Pronouns

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