Monday, October 25, 2010

Grammar Goody #2-- It's confusing knowing which its it is...

We all learned about apostrophe usage in high school: you remember--Susan's dog ate Marthat's homework--that sort of thing.

So, it would be logical (but incorrect) to think that the possessive form of it would be it's. But it's not correct.

OK, let's get to the point (note the let's in that sentence--the apostrophe is NOT representing possession, but something that's missing--the "u" in let us).

So, here's the deal:

An apostrophe represents both possession (as in Martha's homework) AND a place where there's a letter or two missing--as in there's: the i missing when there and is are combined to form there's. 

So, in order to show in the contraction of it is (it's), some grammarian somewhere more interested in confusing people trying to learn English than in any sort of consistency, came up with this rule:

It's is not possessive but is the contraction of it is.

That means that It's = It is. 

And its means the possessive form.

Confused yet?

This might make it easier: Just remember this:

It's hard to fathom, but I understand its logic (I think). 


Maxaokaine said...

Interesting after 10 years I finally understand what my teacher meant by possessive and contraction.

Laura Wittern said...

So glad this helped! Sometimes we teachers use words without even considering that they may not mean anything to the student. So, do, by all means, question all of us when we do so!