Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pronoun Trouble

We don't say He's or She's when we're giving possession to him or her, do we? We don't say You's when we're giving something to you, either. (At least not in sections of the country removed from Appalachia or the Ozarks) So what causes anyone draw the conclusion that "it's" is the correct possessive form of "it"?

"It" is a pronoun. One of the blessed few English pronouns that is entirely free of gender, and as such it is deucedly useful if it is used correctly. To create possessive or plural forms of any pronoun, the word actually changes to another form of the word to impart the new meaning.

Thus, he has his problems and she has hers and you have yours. It most definitely does not have it's problems. As such, "it" changes form when it is made possessive or plural. "It" becomes "Its", which (despite appearances) is actually an entirely new word. It's not the old one with an apostrophe stapling an "s" onto its butt.

The apostrophe is only used to denote a contraction of "it" and "is". It has its problems; it's that simple.

Before the anti-snarks warm up their computers to scan for every grammatical error I've ever made, I should point out that I am not perfect and do not claim to be. My punctuation sometimes appalls and I've a strange affection for ellipses. Likewise, I'm not snarking about typos or the people who make them. Using "It's" when you mean "Its" is an example of using the wrong word entirely. They look and sound similar but aren't the same. That's the trouble with phonics.

And it's not snobbery; it's just me trying to be sure I fully grok what it is you want to say in all its wonder and nuance.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).