Posted by: suekenney | June 9, 2012

It’s Time to Give a Pronoun Its Proper Due

Have I mentioned my pet peeves before?  I have several – but here is one of the most commonly encountered: it’s versus its.  Being a grammar nerd (and darned proud of it too!), I see these two words misused a lot, and it always gives me some small bit of irritation.  (It’s only a pet peeve, after all, not a major, life-altering trauma.)

It is actually quite simple to tell the two apart.  At least I’ve always thought so.  It’s, the form with the apostrophe, is a contraction of it and is, as in It’s going to be a scorcher today!  Its, without the apostrophe, is a pronoun used to show possession, as in The dog chewed on its bone.  My rule of thumb?  If you aren’t sure, try using it is in place of it’s or its – if the sentence still makes sense, you need to use it’s, with the apostrophe.

Just a couple of examples to show what I mean:

The train is not traveling at its maximum speed.  Can you say The train is not traveling at it is maximum speed?  Nope – so use its.

We heard that it’s going to be a great concert.  Can you say We heard that it is going to be a great concert?  Yup – so use it’s.

 Well, that’s it.  Some other time I will speak more on the misuse of the apostrophe in other words…I did address it briefly in a previous post of mine back in August of last year – – but it’s a topic that could use more attention.

Reading suggestion:  Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss, who is even more of a grammar nerd than I am, to the point of vigilantism.


  1. Beautifully and succinctly put, Sue. One of my pet peeves, too! I have nominated you for a Versatile Blogger award – as far as I am aware, all you have to do is go to my post Unexpected Honour (Part II) and pick it up! You may already have this – but congratulations anyway!

  2. Love this!!

  3. Enjoyed your post but thought you might also have remarked that in some cases “it’s” can also be the contraction of “it has” as in “It’s been raining a lot lately.”

    • Oh, you are absolutely right. How did I miss that one? Thanks for keeping me on my toes!

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