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Get Your Grammar Fix (ed): Its. It's Not What It Seems

Since I handled possessives last week--when to use Apostrophe-S vs. S-Apostrophe--I just wanted to be sure to do a quick lesson on the difference between these two words:


Its   and   It's


On the surface, just going with your gut, you might be inclined to believe that IT'S is possessive. After all, there's the whole "Add an apostrophe S to make any noun possessive" rule. 

But it is not a noun. It's a pronoun, and that is very different.

Look at the way these other personal pronouns change based on the role they play in the sentence:


Subject Pronouns
Object Pronouns
Possessive Pronouns
I
Me
Mine
You
You
Yours
He/She/It
Him/Her/It
His/Hers
We
Us
Ours
You
You
Yours
They
Them
Theirs


Wait. What? There's no possessive pronoun for "it"? 

Nope. 

Why? Sure, in theory it would be "its," but we're talking about a pronoun. It entirely REPLACES the noun; it doesn't describe it.

The dog is mine.
The dog is yours.
The dog is his.
The dog is hers.
The dog is its.

Okay, you've got to admit that last one sounds weird. The dog belongs to a thing? 

Even if you're talking about the leg of a table--the table's leg or its leg--you wouldn't say, "Oh, yeah, that leg broke off, but the leg is definitely its." 

You'd say "the table's leg" in that crazy scenario.

What we're wanting, what our ears need to hear and our eyes need to see, is a possessive pronoun adjective. 

That's my dog. 

("My" modifies dog. Which dog? My dog. Whose dog? My dog. Questions that adjectives answer.)

Different than, That's mine

("Mine" replaces dog. Totally.)

So here's another quick table to compare:



Possessive Pronoun
Possessive Pronoun Adjective
Mine
My
Yours
Your
His/Hers
His/Hers/Its
Ours
Our
Yours
Your
Theirs
Their


There is a possessive pronoun adjective its. 



Use it sparingly. Use it well.


Oh no! My sweater snagged. Its sleeve is unraveling.

But don't get that confused with It's. 

It's a contraction.  

I'll slow that down.  

It is a contraction.

Don't let the apostrophe fool you. He's doing the same job he does in other contractions (don't, shouldn't, he's, we'll, I'm). Apostrophes will only help nouns make possessives. 

Pronouns are independent enough to handle it on their own.

It's simple, really.
 




                                     Thanks to Todd for the image.