Sunday, May 8, 2011

If you learn one correct English thingie today...

make it this one...

It's - not the possessive. It means it has, it was, it is - the apostrophe makes it a contraction, not a possessive. If you can break the word down into it has, it was, it is then you'll use this version.

Its - the possessive. If you are talking about something owning something, this is the version you'll want to use.

It's a lovely day! (It's can be broken down into "it is" or possibly "it was" here.)

That dog loves its penguin! (Its can't be broken down into it is or it was, and it is clearly about the lucky dog's bone!)

Okay, this one's a little trickier - It's obvious to see how much that dog loves its penguin!
It is obvious to see how much that dog loves the penguin it owns! Since the first one is the contraction and the second one is about the dog owning something, we can see which one we need to use here.

I'm sorry to be harping on about this, but it really is one of those things that makes me pause when I'm reading an article by a learned person and I see this kind of mistake. I'm not saying I judge their intelligence, but it jars me and takes me out of the moment and I have a little fit, then return to it. I know it's not the most important thing in the world - it's not solving world hunger or creating world peace or even throwing an awesome party - but I didn't spend five years of my life studying English in university to be okay with writing who instead of whom and accepting the wrong form of it's/its!

And before you go looking through every blog post to find where I've made mistakes, I remind you of two things - I'm okay with making mistakes and everyone does it and I have 1278 posts. I am constantly looking for my errors, so anyone who wants to scan all those posts and tell me where I've gone wrong will have my eternal thanks. 

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming....


Marnie said...

Thank you for explaining that to me. I have often wondered and this is an easy way to remember!!

Katie said...


Will said...

Spelling mistakes make me crazy.

Sometimes the spell checkers that catch online errors are the worst, as they'll suggest British correct spelling, not US, so something can be right and it makes you think it's wrong for a second.

The other thing that makes me nuts is when people say words incorrectly. My pet peeves are coupon and bouquet and ask and...

Oh and then when people use the wrong tense, like I seen that.



Mich said...

Misuse of it's/its is a major pet peeve of mine!

Also, my iPad always wants to change its to it's...if I'm not vigilant, I could look like I don't know the rule either!

And don't even get me going on there and their!!!

Ged said...


Or, of course, the other way round ... much more common on teh interwebs for the British spelling to be picked up as a mistake! (But we don't hold it against you ...)

Yes, definitely with you on its and it's, there and their. However, the one that sets me screeching is "I could of (done)". This is so prevalent that it almost seems to have become accepted. I sometimes think we're fighting a losing battle, and am very heartened when young people like you, Susan, (and actually my own kids) seem to care about standards of spelling and grammar (or grammer, as I've often seen it written!)

France said...

Yay you!!! I agree! I make mistakes, but not on purpose! Next week's topic could be possessive vs plural, eg: "my photo's" :)

Mychelle said...

Amen Susan! I was just lecturing my poor husband about this very thing during a rant about the gross punctuation errors the iPhones/iPads are riddled with. I am actually sending a letter to Apple explaining their many mistakes with citations from reputable sources to back it up. Who is with me? We should all send letters! Maybe Apple can change the future with their technology, but they don't know the difference between its and it's, or where a period lives after a quotation mark. So annoying for a neurotic English nerd like me!

Mychelle said...

My big pet-peeve lately is "advise" and "advice." I see these used in the wrong context all of the time and it drives me crazy! I advise everyone to ask for advice if you are unsure of the proper use of these words. Also "are" and "our." Lotions are nice. Our lotion is especially nice. General and possessive. Oh Susan, you got me going! Shall I rant some more? I advise myself to desist. :)

tr3kkie9rl said...

I've been reading your blog for a while now but haven't commented yet, but I just have to say I LOVE YOUR BLOG!! For so many reasons! It has so much awesome information (I'm about to start making my own mineral powder foundations) - but then for this. I'm a grammar freak too! Maybe not always as diligent as I could be, and certainly not always right, but I hate seeing simple errors that are so easy to avoid. This is great!

aarushi pahuja said...

I see a lot of learned people talking the talk,
I am a bit of a grammar Nazi myself, though I wanted to know if the sentence written below is correct or negative
" If you already don't have one! "

and there must be better formations indicating same meaning such as
" If you don't have one yet"
though is the first one correct ?
i can use the help :)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi aarushi!

"If you already don't have one! "
"If you don't have one yet!"

I would go with "If you don't have one yet!" as the way I'd say it. I think the already sounds a bit weird in the first sentence, and it's getting in the way of the you and the already, which sounds strange. You could go with "If you don't already have one!" and it would sound okay. But putting something between the you and don't just sounds odd to me!