Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pronouns and Apostrophes

Those of you who know me well know that I cannot stand grammar faux pas. Particularly those that break standard rules that SHOULD HAVE BEEN DRILLED INTO YOU IN GRADE SCHOOL!!!!! (If they weren't, there is something seriously lacking in your education.) This past week, I have come across three instances of the same mistake, and since they were all done by people who really should have known better (two of them were professional writers), it is time for a lecture.

Possessive pronouns DO NOT (do I need to repeat myself? DO NOT) have apostrophes. This is to differentiate them all from the contractions that these pronouns sometimes form with the verb "is." Possessive pronouns denote ownership of something and are sometimes used as adjectives that tell the reader who owns a particular item. No contraction. No apostrophe.

The big confusion on this is the word "Its." There are two words with these three letters in this order: "Its" and "It's." They are TWO DIFFERENT WORDS and have TWO DIFFERENT MEANINGS. Therefore, they are NOT interchangeable.

"Its" is a possessive pronoun, and is used to denote ownership: "That book has lost ITS cover." Here the word is being used to describe which cover has been lost.

"It's" is a contraction for "it is." It is a subject and verb together, as in: "It looks like IT'S going to rain today."

There's even a simple test to see which one you need: every time you are about to write down the word, say the sentence in your mind replacing the word with "it is" and see if it still makes sense. Let's continue with the above examples:

"That book has lost IT IS cover."
"It looks like IT IS going to rain today."

If the sentence makes sense, you need the apostrophe (IT'S). If it doesn't, you leave it out (ITS).

Does everyone see the difference?

1 comment:

Marcie said...

Amen! My (former) boss does this all the time, and it really bugs me!