1. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Its vs. It's

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Gannon, Jan 31, 2007.

    Now this is hard. I know that is used to be the case that the apostrophe was used in the place of an omission of other letters, i.e. it is

    However it is also used in possession, or is it? Nowadays we have ceased using one of these, I presume it is (?) the former case here. Apostrophe is still used for possession as far as I know.

    Is it now ungrammatical to use apostrophe for the omission of letters as once it wasn't? e.g. It's going to take a long time.

    Or do I have the wrong end of the stick completely?
     
  2. Robert
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    Robert Banned

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    Its = possessive.
    It's = it is.

    'Its' is one of the exceptions when it comes to possessives and apostrophes. Only use an apostrophe when using the contraction for 'it is'.

    Cheers,
    Rob
     
  3. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Allow me to clarify.

    Its (no apostrophe) = possessive
    It's (apostrophe) = contraction.

    That's weird. (Is that apostrophe correct? Now I'm confused, although I know that one is right!)

    I know an apostrophe is used to refer to that which is absent, Prospero's famously apostrophic speech in The Tempest for example, and is also used to indicate possession in certain cases - Forum's Thread e.g.

    So, why do we now not use the apostrophe to indicate possession in the above case? I'm fairly sure when that when I were younger, this was the case.
     
  4. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to throw in another contraction...

    who's = who is

    Anyway, here is an online lesson/quiz that includes the it's vs. its issue and a few others.

    The "lesson" contains information and examples, and the quiz is online where you check to see if you can apply it.

    Basic Word Usage Lesson 1

    If you're interested, I wrote a second lesson on word usage. It's a little more challenging, I think.

    Basic Word Usage Lesson 2

    I did the lesson design and information, I didn't do the programming of the quizzes. Polar of Authors by Design did that fancy work.

    Terry
     
  5. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thanks, I took the quizzes, full marks I thank you.
    I now understand when each is used, but I still don't know why an apostrophe often denotes possession, but not in the case of 'it'.
     
  6. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    How would one then indicate or show the contraction of it is?

    Guess contractions carry more weight as opposed to possessives, and get first dibbs on the apostrophe. ;)

    Glad you found the lessons and quizzes useful!

    Terry
     
  7. Torpeh
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    Torpeh Member

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    The apostophe is only used for possession when the saxon genitive (the grammatical name given to 's) is required, and saxon genitives are not needed for pronouns--in this case, the determinative possessive pronouns.

    Determinative possessive pronouns: my, your, his, her, its, our, their.

    As you can tell, none of these pronouns require apostrophes, yet they indicate possession.
     
  8. Deveron Poppy
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    Deveron Poppy New Member

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    Educated in 1950s / 60s England, at a Grammar School, we were very definitly taught that the possessive form also had an apostrophe. One of my crowning achievements was to be called up to see the head of the English dept at Uni, along with half a dozen others, because the staff were so impressed to find people who understood and used correct grammar. They wanted to know where we had been taught.

    I have noticed in the last ten years certainly, that things have changed and it is no longer used for the possessive form.

    Unfortunately, my grammar skills are very rusty, another reason for me joining this forum!
     
  9. Gannon
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    Gannon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Being classically educated I also (although not quite as long ago!) remember using and being instructed to use it's possesive, but that seems to have been faded out, but thanks to the guys above I think I at least now its ;) current correct use!

    When was it faded out or was it never, were we always taught wrong, Torpeh this is directed at you, you seem to be very knowledgable of these matters?
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    at 68, i'm sure i'm older than all of you and had NEVER been taught to use 'it's' for a possessive!... just as 'hers' and 'yours' and 'theirs' takes no apostrophe, neither does 'its'... or, do you also claim they used to have them, too?...
     
  11. je33ie
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    je33ie Member

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    I'm with you all the way Mammamaia... you can't always trust what you learned at school.

    I remember my teacher saying that to make any adjective opposite, all you have to do is add "un". That made my dad pretty mad when he found out but I always got top marks!

    One that always gets me (and I'm sure is not gramatically correct, but it's used so much it probably soon will be):

    There is a dog over there.
    There are ten dogs over there.
    There's a dog over there.
    There's ten dogs over there.

    "There are" is somehow contracted to "there's".
     
  12. je33ie
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    je33ie Member

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    And your quizzes were great, I really need to work out my use of effect and affect... it's one of the only ones that continues to confuse me.
     
  13. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Je33ie,

    Glad you found the quizzes useful. There are a few others there, on characterization, for example, that might be interesting and useful as well.

    Indeed, affect and effect can be pretty tricky.

    Terry
     
  14. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    could've been, 'there're ten dogs'!...
     
  15. ap Oweyn
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    ap Oweyn Member

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    It's possible (though I don't know) that this is a question of cultures. I learned grammar both in England (where I was born) and the US (where I was raised). And I definitely remember being taught the possessive "it's." Now whether that was in England or stateside, I can't remember.

    But it would certainly not be the only variance in possessive use between the two cultures. e.g., Ross's papers (British version) versus Ross' papers (American version)

    In either event, here in the States, the proper form for a possessive is "its."


    Stuart
     
  16. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    how could one tell what's meant, if both the possessive and the contraction 'it's' are apostrophed?...
     
  17. ap Oweyn
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    ap Oweyn Member

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    Context. Same way we determine the meaning of homonyms in spoken English.
     
  18. Fortis
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    Fortis Member

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    When you are substituting someone for it you do not use an apostrophe. However if you do use their name, or what they are then you do.

    eg.
    The cat's tail was pink.
    Its tail was pink
    Fluffy's tail was pink.

    Edit: Oh, and only when your talking about a specific thing, otherwise no apostrophe.

    eg.
    A cats tail was pink
     
  19. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sorry, but that's incorrect... any noun ['specific thing' or in general] still needs an apostrophe to make it a possessive... without one, it's only a plural and that sentence makes no sense... besides which, 'a' makes little sense, should be 'one' if referring to one being pink, as opposed to others being another color...

    and 'your' is the possessive of 'you'... not the contraction of 'you are' which needs not only an apostrophe, but also an 'e' at the end... ;-)
     
  20. PrincessGarnet
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    PrincessGarnet Contributing Member

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    Its - denoting a possession. is a special case and always has been as far as I am aware. All others should have an apostrophe
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not true. All of the personal possessive pronouns are written with no apostrophes.
     
  22. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    certainly true of his, hers, theirs... but how about "one's"?... as in, "one's own" vs "ones own"?

    and i think the previous poster was only referring to 'all other' uses of 'it's' and not all other personal pronouns... but i could be wrong...
     
  23. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Good point, mamma. Most sources don't even list "one" among the personal pronouns, but it is indeed a personal pronoun in the context you mentioned.

    If every rule has an exception, this is it. The possessive of the personal pronoun "one" is "one's". "One" is irregular in that regard.

    I stand corrected.

    Thanks.
     
  24. PrincessGarnet
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    oh shush! :p
     
  25. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    that's a real stickler, cog, so even i wasn't always sure if it should take a ' or not... good ol' confusing english!
     

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