ATTN: Copyeditors and Grammar Fiends

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While I do consider myself a Grammar Fiend, I am a little bit confused over the usage of "its" and "it's".

Obviously one uses "it's" where "it is" could be used, but when implying posession (eg. "The dog licked it's/its wounds.") which one are we supposed to use? I've been told that "it's" should be used in the above example, but if that is so, when should one use "its"? Could someone outline some example cases in which each instance is supposed to be used?

Other questions of grammar are welcome in this thread.

Andrew (enneff), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:07 (seventeen years ago) link

its

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:09 (seventeen years ago) link

Posession = its. No apostrophe.

It Is contraction = ONLY acceptible use of it's.

(pls ignore my spelling errors, because I know I am right on the its/it's issue)

kate (kate), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:10 (seventeen years ago) link

you were told wrong. The dog licked its wounds.

http://englishplus.com/grammar/00000227.htm

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:10 (seventeen years ago) link

it's = it is ONLY

possessive of it has no apostrophe EVAH!!

viz: the dog licked its wounds

ditto plural of it ("he ended his avant-garde poem with a whole line of its"

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (seventeen years ago) link

its

otherwise it would read "the dog licked it is wounds" or "the dog licked it has wounds"

j0e (j0e), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (seventeen years ago) link

close brackets

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (seventeen years ago) link

Its = ownership thing, think of it as like his or hers.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:12 (seventeen years ago) link

and his and hers never take an apostrophe, if that helps you remember.

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:13 (seventeen years ago) link

grammarian cluster alert!!

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:13 (seventeen years ago) link

What if your name is "it"?

Sam (chirombo), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:14 (seventeen years ago) link

it licked his wounds

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:14 (seventeen years ago) link

apostrophes are so last century

stevem (blueski), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:15 (seventeen years ago) link

theyre the microhouse of punctuation

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:15 (seventeen years ago) link

"and then smog licked ott's wounds"

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:17 (seventeen years ago) link

Here's my question. I'm proofing this German website which my company had translated into English so we can use it as a resource. When referring to a made-up person, like a subordinate, they alternate between him and her from sentence to sentence, so it will be like:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps him learn.
Then
Positive rapport helps a subordinate build her self-esteem.
But in the US, we would use him/her, or his/her, like:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps him/her learn.
But sometimes this can get really tortured. So my question is, when is it appropriate to use "them" or "their" for a single person, like:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps them learn.
Are you just supposed to use this when it will make things clearer? Or is it grammatically incorrect but tolerated? I really hate "him/her" and would rather keep it the way the Germans wrote it, but it has to be in proper English business grammar.

NA. (Nick A.), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:19 (seventeen years ago) link

grammatically incorrect but tolerated etiquette-wise, basically

how abt:
Giving feedback to a subordinate helps him learn (her learn). [and then alternate the order]

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:22 (seventeen years ago) link

Cor Mark that's even clunkier!

Grammatically incorrect but increasingly tolerated in my experience. In the version of business English our business uses here in England, no-one would even notice. Except the sort of pedants you'd like to irritate.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:24 (seventeen years ago) link

just use "him"

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:28 (seventeen years ago) link

No it's not: you get a whole sentence followed by an alternative section you can easily ignore. (Because it's in brackets.)

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:28 (seventeen years ago) link

(nutcase) Yes maybe you're right.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:31 (seventeen years ago) link

How about:

Giving feedback to subordinateS helps them learn.

Dilemma solved.

kate (kate), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:32 (seventeen years ago) link

just use "him" but put a disclaimer at the bottom telling everyone how much women are valued in the workplace and that you're actually dead politcally correct, like, and you'll be fine...

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:34 (seventeen years ago) link

if you're going to start a fight you might as well start it by putting "her" the whole time, and then put a disclaimer at the bottom saying men can eat a bag of dicks

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:37 (seventeen years ago) link

Use "him/the dog".

Sam (chirombo), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:37 (seventeen years ago) link

just include a picture of a german woman with subtitle "him" and youre sorted

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:39 (seventeen years ago) link

if you're going to start a fight you might as well start it by putting "her" the whole time,

either or'sgood with me


men can eat a bag of dicks

i live for the day i see this in any corporate communication

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:40 (seventeen years ago) link

kate is OTM.

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:41 (seventeen years ago) link

just use "her" but put a disclaimer at the bottom telling everyone how much men are valued in the workplace and that you're actually dead politcally correct, like, and you'll be fine...

no, them is acceptable these days, and has been for years

Alan (Alan), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:41 (seventeen years ago) link

alternately substitute any instance of him, her, them or theirs with 'rammstein'

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:44 (seventeen years ago) link

"giving feedback to a subordinate helps rammstein learn"

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:46 (seventeen years ago) link

You could also alternate 'him' and 'her' in different examples - a favourite self-help book technique but never mind. I still don't like 'them' in written English.

Archel (Archel), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:46 (seventeen years ago) link

But it's fine in spoken English?

RickyT (RickyT), Thursday, 17 July 2003 13:59 (seventeen years ago) link

What does Nesbit do when describing something possessed by the Psammead.

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:09 (seventeen years ago) link

Everything's fine in spoken English, it's in flux and I don't pay attention anyway :)

Archel (Archel), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:09 (seventeen years ago) link

Alternating him and her was the Thing to Do when I was at Hahvahd.

Colin Meeder (Mert), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:18 (seventeen years ago) link

I use Shem to mean both.

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:19 (seventeen years ago) link

good point ptee:

things belonging to Cousin It are Cousin It's

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:19 (seventeen years ago) link

"Them".

Chris P (Chris P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:31 (seventeen years ago) link

I use the third person plural rather than any of the other alternatives. If you actually put things into plural as much as possible, that helps.

Martin Skidmore (Martin Skidmore), Thursday, 17 July 2003 19:47 (seventeen years ago) link

Alternating him and her was the Thing to Do when I was at Hahvahd.

That's what people kept telling me, but I was never that adventurous.

Dan Perry (Dan Perry), Thursday, 17 July 2003 20:21 (seventeen years ago) link

I was going to make Chris's point without solid evidence. Hurrah for 'them'.

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 17 July 2003 21:04 (seventeen years ago) link

y'know what? that it's/its thing has been bothering me for years and now i know. didn't realise it was that simple. Its like an epiphany ;-)

dog latin (dog latin), Friday, 18 July 2003 01:16 (seventeen years ago) link

Using "them" or any other plural pronoun to refer to a singular antecedent is a horrible horrible thing and should be avoided.

It used to be gramatically acceptable to use a masculine pronoun (he, him, etc.) when referring to a person of unspecified gender (you know what I mean.. I can't think of any other way to put it), but now the "he or she"/"his or her" method is the proper form.

I'm not sure if it makes a difference whether you use a slash or the word "or." I suspect that the slash is unacceptable in formal writing.

Curt1s St3ph3ns, Friday, 18 July 2003 02:11 (seventeen years ago) link

"giving feedback to a subordinate helps motherfuckers learn," italics or boldface on "learn" obv. possible/encouraged

J0hn Darn1elle (J0hn Darn1elle), Friday, 18 July 2003 02:33 (seventeen years ago) link

"I know what you're thinking. Did s/he fire six shots or only five?"

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 18 July 2003 03:31 (seventeen years ago) link

I suspect that the slash is unacceptable in formal writing.

Unless it's academic writing, and it allows you to make a terrible pun somehow.

jaymc (jaymc), Friday, 18 July 2003 04:31 (seventeen years ago) link

but now the "he or she"/"his or her" method is the proper form.

Proper, maybe. But it should be pointed out that if you're having to cram this into your sentence, you;re writing a clumsy sentence, and you should probably drop back and punt.

Kenan Hebert (kenan), Friday, 18 July 2003 04:34 (seventeen years ago) link

Not that I don't write clumsy sentences all the time, mind you. It's just that I'm aware of it.

Kenan Hebert (kenan), Friday, 18 July 2003 04:35 (seventeen years ago) link

seven months pass...
Quick - is "fact-checking" hyphenated? Or is it "factchecking"? Oh no, they both look weird!

@d@ml (nordicskilla), Monday, 8 March 2004 00:24 (sixteen years ago) link

Creasing at the multiple indignities of 15% of for oaps

hyds (gyac), Monday, 17 February 2020 13:50 (five months ago) link

excuse me, that's oap's

Homegrown Georgia speedster Ladd McConkey (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 17 February 2020 13:50 (five months ago) link

Lol my fucking phone is STILL spelling the piss diamonds as Lib Dem’s but it literally overwrote my authentic spelling

hyds (gyac), Monday, 17 February 2020 13:51 (five months ago) link

u love 2 see it as we sub-editor's say

mark s, Monday, 17 February 2020 13:53 (five months ago) link

Same business, elsewhere on the web. Consistent!

We do jet washing for
Roof's patio's lock block drive's Concrete drive's wall's

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 17 February 2020 13:55 (five months ago) link

there's at least one thing wrong with literally every line, it's almost too completely incorrect to be real

Homegrown Georgia speedster Ladd McConkey (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 17 February 2020 13:55 (five months ago) link

Hmmmm... Something tells me this positive feedback on bark.com could be an inside job:

KevIn weir
3 December 2019

Great bunch of lads that alway’s do a first class job at the right price, thank’s again boy’s 👍

Le Bateau Ivre, Monday, 17 February 2020 13:57 (five months ago) link

big 'leaving your wallet at the scene of the crime' energy

Homegrown Georgia speedster Ladd McConkey (bizarro gazzara), Monday, 17 February 2020 13:59 (five months ago) link

"alway's" is radical and indeed breakway stuff in this context tbf

(esp. just two words after "lads") 👍

mark s, Monday, 17 February 2020 14:10 (five months ago) link

lad's

mookieproof, Monday, 17 February 2020 20:53 (five months ago) link

one month passes...

so a colleague asked me to read through a customer email she was sending and I queried the fact that she'd put a timeframe as 6a - 10a. My query consisted of me saying er shouldn't this be 'am'?

Response:

"I’ve increasingly seen it called it “6a” instead of “6am” in the US (to be efficient? no idea). Anyway, that’s how they referred to it on our call the other day so I thought I’d play along."

US ilxors - is this actually a thing?

Fizzles, Monday, 30 March 2020 09:00 (four months ago) link

no

mookieproof, Monday, 30 March 2020 09:02 (four months ago) link

in the my adventures developing similar shortcuts i moved to "6-10am", based on the assumption that (contextually) as nothing routinely being promoted was going to be "6pm-10am" no muddle was likely. (if/when "6pm-10am" was need then put that in full, till then no need).

so i can't complain that someone has invented a new compacting on a similar principle! what else is it going to be before or after except midday?

but i highly favour the compact in these circs so

mark s, Monday, 30 March 2020 09:08 (four months ago) link

to answer the question tho, i've not seen it but i don't read to proof off the clock so may have skimmed it w/o noticing

mark s, Monday, 30 March 2020 09:20 (four months ago) link

6-10am is good I think. 'a' by itself seems like an unhelpful letter to increase the frequency of its use in isolation. More, I was just surprised, as I hadn't come across it at all.

Fizzles, Monday, 30 March 2020 09:47 (four months ago) link

I was thinking "that looks familiar" but I've realised it's just similar enough to the way fount size is expressed when you buy a small amount of type: the size of a small fount (not point size but number of actual separate letters) is expressed in a number of a or A, and then the other letters are in set ratios to that. So you might buy a fount that's 5A-13a or whatever.

Tim, Monday, 30 March 2020 10:03 (four months ago) link

Since your colleague admits to knowing no reason why this construction would be more useful or helpful, it seems safe to err on the side of adding back one fucking letter to make one's communication more universally clear. btw, I've never seen "a" used to denote "a.m." by anyone. if it's a thing, it's a very limited thing.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 30 March 2020 16:07 (four months ago) link

well my colleague is great, so i perhaps wouldn’t do it with the same level of vituperation, but would be v happy to say “no one(*) in the USA has heard of this, in your face, colleague” to her, as she would take it in the right spirit.

(*by which i mean the totally authoritative aimless of ilx.com, no i will not be taking questions at this time)

Fizzles, Monday, 30 March 2020 17:02 (four months ago) link

obviously management/executive types in US corporations hatch all kinds of weird internal jargon for nonsensical reasons, and I am not intimately involved with their multiform communication foibles, but I'd say the chances are very high that this particular idiomatic use is confined to a tiny local tribe and has not spread to anything resembling ordinary use.

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 30 March 2020 18:12 (four months ago) link

broadcast media r&d in atlanta is the micro-climate here.

Fizzles, Monday, 30 March 2020 20:56 (four months ago) link

four months pass...

Hello. I'm trying to write something in the present tense and I'm stuck on a conditional clause:

What is correct?


"That's amazing!", he says...

- If he could, he would have clapped John around the shoulder.
- If he could, he would clap John around the shoulder.

doorstep jetski (dog latin), Thursday, 30 July 2020 14:38 (two weeks ago) link

they're both correct but for different situations:

the second belongs in a context like the following:
he told the others that when he found him, if he could, he would clap John around the shoulder

the first is more like:
if he could, he would have clapped John around the shoulder -- but the crowd was too big and he never reached him

mark s, Thursday, 30 July 2020 15:05 (two weeks ago) link

so i think you want the second, the first suggests something that might well still happen if conditions turn out right

mark s, Thursday, 30 July 2020 15:06 (two weeks ago) link

I think the second would be correct, but very awkward. You may be able to recast it into something more present: He feels a desire to clap John around the shoulder, but understands this is not possible.

the unappreciated charisma of cows (Aimless), Thursday, 30 July 2020 15:08 (two weeks ago) link

feels like there's a suppressed 'have' in the first one i.e. 'If he could (have), he would have..' but that's repetitive, so you leave it out and allow the 'have' in 'would have' to do all the work

so i think actually the opposite of what mark s has said?? i do not say this lightly

i.e. the first is narrating something that happened in the past; the second feels of the present

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:05 (two weeks ago) link

I agree with Tracer; the second one is in the present so I'd go with that.

Lily Dale, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:21 (two weeks ago) link

Very much with TH and Lily on this, with the obvious caveat that I'm a non-native speaker.

pomenitul, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:25 (two weeks ago) link

I'd change the clause entirely to "wishing he could clap John around the shoulder", which gets across the fact that he wants to but can't.

joni mitchell jarre (anagram), Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:33 (two weeks ago) link

i agree about the suppressed "have" and can't work out how tracer's is "opposite" to mine?

mark s, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:33 (two weeks ago) link

As a thought experiment, 'He would clap John around the shoulder if he could' sounds more idiomatic to me than 'He would have clapped John around the shoulder if he could'.

pomenitul, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:35 (two weeks ago) link

it's not an issue of more or less idiomatic really, you'd use them in different contexts

mark s, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:38 (two weeks ago) link

mark you say 'the first suggests something that might well still happen if conditions turn out right'

but would've-could've feels like the book is closed on that

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:38 (two weeks ago) link

it's not an issue of more or less idiomatic really, you'd use them in different contexts

I defer to your judgement, of course, it's just that the second sentence sounds off to my ears without the extra 'have'.

pomenitul, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:40 (two weeks ago) link

ok lol i think i muddled myself (and everyone else) by writing my expanded examples in the opposite order to dog latin's

when i write "so i think you want the second, the first suggests something that might well still happen if conditions turn out right" and when i say "second" i'm referring to dog latin's order but when i say "first" i'm referring to my order! simples!

ffs

sorry abt that everyone, what i shd have said is ""i think you want the second (your second), which suggests something that might well still happen if conditions turn out right"

mark s, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:46 (two weeks ago) link

Tracer is right. In contrast, however, I would actually say (and write) both "have"s.

If he could have [done whatever], he would have [done whatever].

There may be a way to rephrase to get out of the clunkiness even if it takes more words. My philosophy is WARP (Words Are Readers' Pals). Maybe try inverting it, as pomenitul suggested?

He would have clapped John around the shoulder if he could have.

He would have clapped John around the shoulder, if he only could.

He would've clapped John around the shoulder if he could've.

He would have clapped John around the shoulder, but he couldn't.

He would have clapped John around the shoulder, if it were possible.

He would've clapped John around the shoulder, but didn't want people to think he was gay.

He would have clapped John around the shoulder, if he only could. Unfortunately, John was born without shoulders.

Gin and Juice Newton (Ye Mad Puffin), Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:49 (two weeks ago) link

tracer is saying use the one without any haves

(i was trying to say this also but fucked it up)

mark s, Thursday, 30 July 2020 16:53 (two weeks ago) link

this should be the only thread permits such pedantry, but there shouldn't be a comma preceding the attribution here

(unless that is an American-specific rule?)

singular wolf erotica producer (Hadrian VIII), Thursday, 30 July 2020 17:05 (two weeks ago) link

Possibly not the right thread, but you guys will know - where do you go to google the historical usage of a phrase over time? Not just in books but in general (on the internet, I guess).
Or does anyone know if "control the narrative" is a relatively modern phrase?

kinder, Monday, 3 August 2020 19:52 (one week ago) link

https://books.google.com/ngrams

Brad C., Monday, 3 August 2020 20:00 (one week ago) link

That's what I tried; is that not just books?

kinder, Monday, 3 August 2020 20:17 (one week ago) link

Oh OK it works anyway! thanks

kinder, Monday, 3 August 2020 20:17 (one week ago) link

You might also be interested in the Time Magazine Corpus of American English, which lets you search for the other words and terms that show up in conjunction with a given phrase and thus get a sense of how its connotation changes over time.

https://www.english-corpora.org/time/

Lily Dale, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 00:03 (one week ago) link

Whoa

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 4 August 2020 00:07 (one week ago) link

'It’s a wonderful example of historic architecture with a beautiful garden and an amazing history, particularly of the xxx family who led their creative lives here in the 19th and 20th century.

OR

‘It’s a wonderful example of historic architecture with a beautiful garden and an amazing history, particularly of the xxx family who led their creative lives here in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 08:19 (one week ago) link

plur(al)

mookieproof, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 08:43 (one week ago) link

I'd even replace "in" with "during", but it's not a dealbreaker.

pplains, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 12:21 (one week ago) link

Thank you, I also went with the plural, although I suspect the first one might also be 'correct' in English.

Agree too about 'during' over 'in', but this is one of those "don't tamper with the client's copy more than is absolutely necessary" deals, so left as is.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 14:01 (one week ago) link

O how I do know exactly what you're talking about.

pplains, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 15:01 (one week ago) link

If anyone ever wants to make a hypocrite meme about editors, feel free to use the "Please provide copy with files" b/w "This copy is all wrong."

pplains, Tuesday, 4 August 2020 15:02 (one week ago) link

Yikes! Thanks for the help upthread everyone. More complicated than I thought it would be.

doorstep jetski (dog latin), Tuesday, 4 August 2020 15:50 (one week ago) link


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