Its On The Fritz
To apostrophe, or not to apostrophe? That is the question....
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(permanent link) added: 2012-06-10 19:45:37 sponsor: Stratadrake (last reply: 2012-08-01 11:42:17)

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Is this worth a wiki guideline page?

(singing): "If you want to be posessive, it's just I-T-S... but if it's supposedtobeacontractionthenit's I-T-apostrophe-S !"

Perhaps the biggest Berserk Button of any self-proclaimed Grammar Nazi is the misspelling of "its" as "it's" and vice versa.

Do you know which one to use where, and why?

As much as nobody likes a Grammar Nazi ... they're right. The official rules on "its" versus "it's" are:

  • Its is the posessive pronoun, meaning "something belonging to it".
  • It's, with apostrophe, is always a contraction for "It is" or "It has".

Does this feel completely backwards? After all, when dealing with any other word in the English language you just pin an apostrophe-s on the tail end to make a posessive, right?

But here's the trick that everyone forgets: The apostrophe-s rule only works on nouns. "It" is a pronoun, and pronouns don't play by the same rules. They never have! No posessive pronoun in the English language has ever had an apostrophe in it -- seriously:

  • I, me -> my, mine
  • We, us -> our, ours
  • You -> your, yours
  • He, him -> his
  • She, her -> her, hers
  • They, them -> their, theirs

Notice there is no apostrophe in "ours", "yours", "his", "hers", and "theirs". "Its" is a pronoun too, and it plays by pronoun rules:

  • He -> his
  • She -> hers
  • It -> its
  • They -> theirs

We hope this helps you keep them straight. Spelling errors make the wiki look bad, so if you see an "it's" where an "its" should be (according to the rules above), please take a minute of time-out to fix it.
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