Carpe Diem

Another grammar rant on the misuse of ‘it’s’ for ‘its’

Time for my quarterly grammar rant on the misuse of it’s for its, collected mostly from the comment section of CD:

1. I’d say any company that conducted it’s business without relying on coercive government….

2. Texas has it’s own power grid which is interesting because of the amount of energy Texas produces.

3. The Holy Libertarian Party considers this as one of it’s 7 deadly sins.

4. I must confess a tinge of disappointment on it’s coverage of trade.

5. The ticket revolution has truly taken off and spread it’s wings.

6. You should realize some basic facts about Walmart and it’s dealings with employees and customers.

7. ….trained many of GM’s engineers and executives during it’s most successful era.

8. Check out the behind-the-scenes video for the making of “Black Bear” — featuring it’s first single.

18 thoughts on “Another grammar rant on the misuse of ‘it’s’ for ‘its’

  1. “YEAH but” It’s rarely used as a contraction. Especially for, it has.
    My 1952 The American College Dictionary lists “its adj. possessive form of it. [poss. case of it , formerly written it's] My 2002 Oxford pocket…. spends almost 50 words explaining what your rant is saying. Maybe we are going full circle. I prefer the (formerly written) version myself as apparently do many others. Another ” Mr Gove ain’t in”??

  2. Keith, just a word to the wise. You may believe this post is a discussion of the correct usage of “its” and “it’s”, but it’s not. Prof. Perry insists on correct usage, and as you can see from the above list, those who fail are periodically hoisted up for public ridicule.

    I am thanking my lucky stars this morning that none of those examples are mine, and those eight offenders – and they know who they are – are spending their morning cringing in shame.

    I’ve learned a lot of things, thank to this excellent blog and its comments, and one of them is correct usage of “it’s” and “its”.

    Perhaps Prof. Perry will add some lessons on “to and too”, another major grammar around crime here.

    • I know the rule quite well, but I still mess up because I don’t always proof read blog posts. I find I am as likely to use “it’s” as “its”, so it is easy for me to make a careless mistake. I consider the opportunity cost too high to dwell on it unless I am being paid for copy editing, and I will take whatever shame I have coming.

        • i’d prefer some lessons on “less vs fewer” and for proper use of the phrase “begs the question” which seems to used incorrectly about 95% of the time.

          (hint: it does NOT mean “leads one to ask the question”. it’s actually a very specific phrase that implies a form of logical fallacy based upon circular reasoning. it does not mean “begs for a question to be asked”, it means that the key question was “left begging” due to circular reasoning and an assumed premise.)

  3. Thanks Ron. It’s nice to have you looking out for me. I consulted my 1920 Webster’s New Inter. compiled from Webster’s 1890 and I found that it’s for its goes back to Shak. Pope, Johnson and the Bible. About 1600 so the circle is quite large. It was used for its back then too. I won’t be so quick next time.
    Ron do you remember the Dr Gove “ain’t” flap? My quote is from a cartoon in the New Yorker about the relaxation of usage in a new Websters about mid 60s?

    • Thanks Ron. It’s nice to have you looking out for me.

      No problem, any time.

      Ron do you remember the Dr Gove “ain’t” flap? My quote is from a cartoon in the New Yorker about the relaxation of usage in a new Websters about mid 60s?

      Can’t say as I remember that.

  4. This confusion and the closely related confusion of the plural and the possessive are my largest pet peeves.

    But, Dr. Perry, prepare to move from deep depression to the edge of the abyss: it’s getting worse!

    In the past, when I corrected commenters on the internet about this silliness and the need to uphold standards, the typical response was to be called “a grammar NAZI.” I’m not a huge fan of this snowclone but it was tolerable; one must make sacrifices in defense of English.

    Nowadays, by contrast, people will typically refuse to admit that they are wrong: they will blame the incontrovertible error on the dubiously-named “auto-correct” function on their mobile phone!

    Standard English is doomed.

  5. No need to remember grammar. Replace an ‘i’ with a ‘. ‘It is’ becomes it’s. The possessive form has no ‘i’ so don’t use a ‘. Simple.

  6. Consider “he put the hammer in it’s place.” Now if you ask the person who writes this do you mean “he put the hammer in it is place” or “he put the hammer in the proper place” the person will say the second of course. This means that we are talking about a spelling error and not an error in grammar. He has spelled the third person singular neuter possessive pronoun incorrectly. He writes “it’s” but he means to write “its.”

    A similar example: Aye, aye have a speck of dirt in my aye. There is no grammatical error here, but rather two spelling mistakes.

  7. Why does it matter? Because its and it’s are TWO DIFFERENT WORDS!!! It’s like swapping King Henry V for King Henry VIII. If you say “What’s the difference?” you are ignoring the fact that they are two quite different English kings. Just because they have a similar name does not make it ok to mistake them for each other.

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