1. ANightDude
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    ANightDude New Member

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    I just have to ask - its v. it's?

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by ANightDude, Mar 27, 2013.

    I will absolutely state right now that I had a horrible education in middle school.

    To settle this once and for all (and for all that might be interested) - can someone explain the difference?

    I understand it's is basically it + is, but what other situations do you use it in? The possessive aspect of it throws me off (like "it's bed was big" vs. "its bed was big").

    Thanks!
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    its: possessive

    it's: contraction

    It's its own unique apostrophe problem.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    The one I have trouble with is 'whose'. Since I haven't bothered to seek the answer, I avoid the contraction for 'who is'.
     
  4. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I read the OP's post. I don't think your response is helpful, because you're presupposing he knows what "possessive" means and what "contraction" means. It's clear that he's having trouble with that.

    Its, without the apostrophe, means it owns. "Its color is green" means it's green. "I stayed out of range of its guns."

    It's, with the apostrophe, is a contraction of "it is" or "it has". "It's a long story" means "It is a long story."
     
  5. popsprocket
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    popsprocket Member

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    I remember in primary school they taught us that "it's" was used for possessive too. It took me years to unlearn that terrible habit.
     
  6. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Of course you are welcome to add to the answer, but looking up the definition of a word one doesn't know is a good skill to learn and make a habit of.
     
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  7. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Whose vs Who's is basically the same as its vs it's - 'whose' is for possessive, 'who's' is for contraction. It also musn't be forgotten that the 's contractions are not just, as minstrel mentioned, for 'is', but also 'has', 'was', etc. 'Who was' can be contracted to 'who's' as much as 'who is' can be.

    'Who' vs 'whom' - which is nothing to do with contractions or this thread really - is the one that I always have trouble remembering the 'rule' for. As far as I can ascertain, it's 'who' for he/she, and 'whom' for him/her if the sentence that will have the who/whom word is rephrased, which follows the usage of 'who' for someone who is the subject and 'whom' for someone who is the object ('who' therefore being active voice, and 'whom' being passive?).
     
  8. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    John's head was huge - also possesive?

    I'm glad this question was asked because MS Word keeps putting little green lines under my use of "it's head was huge" or "it's eyes were scary"
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and those little green squiggles are correct...

    it's wrong to use it's for those examples, where the correct word is 'its'... and yes, in 'john's head was huge' the name is 'also possessive'...

    popsprocket...
    where/when did that idiot teacher teach you that?
     
  10. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Easy way to know which one is correct: Does "it is" sound correct? Or does "its" sound correct?

    Use the one (it's or its) that sounds correct after figuring that out in your head.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Sorry, didn't mean to confuse anyone. I see now my example would only be clear to one who knew the possessive its, no apostrophe, was an exception to possessives that use apostrophes. It's what I was referring to when I said, "its own unique apostrophe problem."



    Thanks. That makes sense. I think I need a d'oh.


    This one is trickier because whatever the correct word choice, 'whom' sounds snooty to some audiences. I often use 'who' even if incorrect to avoid the unintended connotation.
     
  12. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    There's some disagreement here on this. I reckon 'whom' is a bit 'snooty' too and isn't generally used outside of particularly erudite broadcasters, but some others here feel differently and that it's still used quite bit, and not just by people we might think of as 'erudite'. I'm not saying I'm right and they're wrong by the way, I think it's a matter of peception and the kind of people we mix with and channels of TV we watch ;)
     
  13. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Just out of curiosity, where do you suppose the YA audience would come down on in this matter?
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I would use "who" and "whom" correctly when writing for any audience.
     
  15. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I don't know about YA, but like thirdwind says I'd still use 'whom' and use it correctly regardless of audience. However, that's because I like a slightly archaic sound to the narratives I write in my novels :)
     
  16. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/who_whom.htm

    An explanation of who vs. whom, though even the site says themselves that, when you really don't know, just use "who."

    What it says is that "who" refers to the subject of the sentence. "Whom" refers to someone that is not the subject of the sentence.
     
  17. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    and if it's dialog, use whichever your character would be expected to use...
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I suppose "John's head" might be considered a possessive proper noun? Now I'm just making terms up hahaha - but it's basically the same as "His head was huge" and "his" is called a possessive pronoun for sure :)

    MS Word keeps underlining "it's head" and "it's eyes" in your document because it's grammatically incorrect, where "it's" is clearly a real word spelt correctly, but it is misused. By writing "it's head was huge and it's eyes were scary", you're in fact writing: "it is head was huge and it is eyes were scary" - when put like that, it becomes obvious where the mistake is.

    The easiest way to remember - the apostrophe is there to indicate MISSING LETTERS, which is why "it's = it is" - the apostrophe has substituted for the missing 'i' in 'is'. The same can be seen in do not = don't, have not = haven't etc.

    Whereas the possessive "its" is not a contraction for "it is" because there's no missing letter, it does not represent two words at all.

    That's how I remember it anyway heh :rolleyes:
     
  19. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I can't fathom John's head. It's a massive oblate spheroid, its vertical axis shorter than its horizontal diameter.

    The first one, It's, is a contraction of "it is." The other two, its, are the possessive neuter pronoun.
     
  20. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    Concerning who vs. whom, If you have had the opportunity to study language where cases are still important, just remember that "who" is nominative case, and "whom" is accusative case. Or, more generally, always use "who" when it's causing the action (subject) of the sentence, and "whom" when it is receiving the action (object) of the sentence.

    "Whom are you seeing tonight?" The person being seen (whom) is the object.

    "Who is seeing you tonight?" The person being seen (here, you) is the object.

    But, "Who was that?" and "That was who?" are both correct, because they are both nominal sentences (both subjects, the to be verb is basically an equal sign here).

    Hope that helps.
     
  21. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    Colloquially though, I'd never ask someone 'Whom are you seeing tonight?', I'd always ask 'Who are you seeing tonight?'. So in our dialogue we need to be careful to understand each character's likely usage of language. Is it more erudite and formal which is arguably less common, or is it informal which is more common? In narrative I'd stick with 'whom' for the archaic feel, but that's a personal preference and I'd certainly not mark down a writer for not using 'whom' at all.
     
  22. E. C. Scrubb
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    E. C. Scrubb Active Member

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    I think Mama makes the same point above. There is however, a number of things that you can do with it. Want to have a character that tries to be above his/her class? Have that person use whom in the wrong way. Want a different character voice, say, a college professor? Whom gets used consistently. I also think that, unless your writing for youth or children, whom is probably a good choice for a narrator's voice (obviously not first person).
     

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