Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Distressing "S"

I've had a few run-in's in my day, nothing major though. Mostly who drunk the last juice and put an empty pitcher back in the fridge, who ate ice cream last and put this carton back with only a mouthful left in the container, or something else along those lines.

The other day I had a run-in of another sort, still not major but a bit baffling all the same. I had written a post for one of the sites I frequent. Upon publishing the post I had a nagging feeling that something was off with one of the words, the form was...

...should that word have a plain old "S" at the end, should it have an apostrophe and "S" ('s)? I truly was on a deadline and didn't have time to bounce it around in my head...plain "S" or apostrophe "S"...remember the rule? What is the rule for whether or not to add apostrophe and "S" or not? No time to waste searching for the answer. I left the word as it was and moved on.

For the answer, I decided to use my brain for a change and figure it out. All I needed was time, which I still don't have but, I'm making time for this. My delimma was:
  • "a chicken with its head cut off OR a chicken with it's head cut off"?

It's or Its

It's is a contraction for it is or it has.
Its is a possessive pronoun meaning, of it or belonging to it.

How to know if you're using the correct form.
  • If you can replace it's with it is or it has, then it's is the word you want. If not then use its.
You can also try this.
  • Its replaces his and her. If you can use her/his instead of its, and the sentence is correct gramatically, then its is the right word. Your sentence might not be logical but, it will be correct gramatically.
  • It's been very hot today. Contraction for it has.
  • It's Superman! Contraction for it is.
  • The kitten lost some if its whiskers. Possessive pronoun: its whiskers = the kitten's whiskers.
A Hard & Fast Rule:
If you can replace the word with "it is" or "it has," use it's.
Otherwise, it's always its.


  1. good reminder. I think I have that one down but plurals throw me like hatch hatches is plural but what is possessive-ah material for another post-go for it. I'm waiting for your answer. LOL

  2. Yae! This is something I did already know. There's so much I don't but this one thing, I did.

    What about bear as in: I can't bear to go to the dentist again.

    Is it bear or bare?

  3. My husband spends a fair amount of time writing to publishers of books, editors of newspapers and even to producers of TV news programs about grammatical and spelling errors. I shudder when I need him to proof read something which is why I use a very informal way of blogging. Or maybe I get tired with my poor typing skills. In any case, these are good tips. I came from Kay's blog and see you more blog friends here.. Michelle

  4. Another useful rule of thumb that I will no doubt forget. My mind is too muudled to be able to hang on to gramatical rights and wrongs. I just have to trust my readers to sift the wheat from the chaff. Is that lazy, thoughtless, ignorant or what? I do try... but, I don't have the gift for English grammer that so many others have.


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