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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

its

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

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

you were told wrong. The dog licked its wounds.

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

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:10 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

close brackets

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:11 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:12 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:13 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

grammarian cluster alert!!

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:13 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

What if your name is "it"?

Sam (chirombo), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:14 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

it licked his wounds

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

apostrophes are so last century

stevem (blueski), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:15 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

theyre the microhouse of punctuation

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

"and then smog licked ott's wounds"

mark p (Mark P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:17 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

just use "him"

Dave Stelfox (Dave Stelfox), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:28 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

(nutcase) Yes maybe you're right.

Tim (Tim), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

How about:

Giving feedback to subordinateS helps them learn.

Dilemma solved.

kate (kate), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:32 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

Use "him/the dog".

Sam (chirombo), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:37 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

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

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

kate is OTM.

teeny (teeny), Thursday, 17 July 2003 12:41 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

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

"giving feedback to a subordinate helps rammstein learn"

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

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

But it's fine in spoken English?

RickyT (RickyT), Thursday, 17 July 2003 13:59 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:09 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

Colin Meeder (Mert), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:18 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

I use Shem to mean both.

Pete (Pete), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

good point ptee:

things belonging to Cousin It are Cousin It's

mark s (mark s), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:19 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"Them".

Chris P (Chris P), Thursday, 17 July 2003 14:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

N. (nickdastoor), Thursday, 17 July 2003 21:04 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

"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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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

amateurist (amateurist), Friday, 18 July 2003 03:31 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

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 (fifteen years ago) Permalink

What the heck is a “breakfast bar” anyway?

calstars, Sunday, 16 December 2018 21:31 (six months ago) Permalink

The "breakfast bar" was named via analogy to the "salad bar" and consists of a variety of foods commonly eaten at breakfast, made available for one to serve to oneself.

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 16 December 2018 21:35 (six months ago) Permalink

Ok, I’d call it a breakfast buffet.

Bbbbbut how can a breakfast bar also be a drinking den? One is a collection of foods or a piece of equipment, the other is a type of room.

calstars, Sunday, 16 December 2018 21:52 (six months ago) Permalink

breakfast bar = a variety of syrups, preserves, multiple meats, a protective sneeze guard

j., Sunday, 16 December 2018 22:01 (six months ago) Permalink

a breakfast bar is a long shallow shelf section you sit at in a domestic kitchen, typically on a stool

gabbnebulous (darraghmac), Sunday, 16 December 2018 22:08 (six months ago) Permalink

at this rate, it will also qualify as a laxative, an epithet, and a cosmology

A is for (Aimless), Sunday, 16 December 2018 22:44 (six months ago) Permalink

shitting the bar high there

gabbnebulous (darraghmac), Sunday, 16 December 2018 22:54 (six months ago) Permalink

(Aimless ticks 'laxative' off his list.)

A is for (Aimless), Monday, 17 December 2018 17:44 (six months ago) Permalink

lol

Pierrot with a thousand farces (wins), Monday, 17 December 2018 19:00 (six months ago) Permalink

It’s also, of course, the place you pregame before moving on to the breakfast club

Pierrot with a thousand farces (wins), Monday, 17 December 2018 19:01 (six months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

unlike others itt i have a bit of a prejudice against nu classical or inflected endings. often seem to originate from a position of wanting to be more academically *correct* than the next person so

The ECB today announced that it has appointed temporary administrators at Banca Carige, the most current Italian banking conundrum in a long and growing list of Italian banking conundra.

immediate response:NO
next response: is conundrum even latin?
action: go to OED:
Etymology: Origin lost: in 1645 (sense 3) referred to as an Oxford term; possibly originating in some university joke, or as a parody of some Latin term of the schools, which would agree with its unfixed form in 17–18th cent. It is doubtful whether Nash's use (sense 1) is the original.

...


†1. Applied abusively to a person. (? Pedant, crotchet-monger, or ninny.) Obsolete.

1596 T. Nashe Haue with you to Saffron-Walden sig. V4v So will I..driue him [sc. Gabriel Harvey] to confesse himselfe a Conundrum, who now thinks he hath learning inough to proue the saluation of Lucifer.

...

†3. A pun or word-play depending on similarity of sound in words of different meaning. Obsolete.

1645 Kingdom's Weekly Post 16 Dec. 76 This is the man who would have his device alwayes in his sermons, which in Oxford they then called conundrums. For an instance..Now all House is turned into an Alehouse, and a pair of dice is made a Paradice, was it thus in the days of Noah? Ah no!


all in various ways amusing or ironic considering the context.

final response: actually if this is a joke or parody latin word it is *far more legit* to use “conundra” as in the spirit of the original thing

final final response: still absurd.

Fizzles, Thursday, 3 January 2019 05:52 (five months ago) Permalink

so many conundrae in those etymologia

sans lep (sic), Thursday, 3 January 2019 06:28 (five months ago) Permalink

FP

Fizzles, Thursday, 3 January 2019 08:28 (five months ago) Permalink

the original meaning is clearly describing the median ilx poster

we pompous panjandrums

illegal economic migration (Tracer Hand), Thursday, 3 January 2019 08:34 (five months ago) Permalink

crotchet-mongers all.

Fizzles, Thursday, 3 January 2019 09:01 (five months ago) Permalink

often seem to originate from a position of wanting to be more academically *correct* than the next person
please don’t describe my life without my permission

an incoherent crustacean (MatthewK), Thursday, 3 January 2019 11:20 (five months ago) Permalink

So will I..driue u to confesse urselfe a Conundrum, who now thinks he hath learning inough to proue the saluation of Lucifer.

Fizzles, Thursday, 3 January 2019 11:23 (five months ago) Permalink

oh leaue av

topical mlady (darraghmac), Thursday, 3 January 2019 12:29 (five months ago) Permalink

two months pass...

ap style guide . . . welcome to the resistance

SPLIT FORMS: In many cases, splitting the infinitive or compound forms of a verb is necessary to convey meaning and make a sentence easy to read. Such constructions are acceptable. For example: Those who lie are often found out. How has your health been? The budget was tentatively approved. Let readability and comprehension be your guide.

mookieproof, Friday, 29 March 2019 18:35 (two months ago) Permalink

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Una Palooka Dronka (hardcore dilettante), Friday, 29 March 2019 21:36 (two months ago) Permalink

two weeks pass...

i've begun leaving off full stops in my work emails sometimes, even to important people. i do capitalise though. what does this mean??

Lil' Brexit (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 17 April 2019 21:05 (two months ago) Permalink

it means my work is done here

mark s, Wednesday, 17 April 2019 21:26 (two months ago) Permalink

do you replace them with,,,, ? if so,,,, I have the facebook group for you!

kinder, Thursday, 18 April 2019 11:21 (two months ago) Permalink

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/D5GscCfWkAA_Ybc.jpg:small

subtle commentary on the inconsistency of americans

mookieproof, Friday, 26 April 2019 20:35 (one month ago) Permalink

one month passes...

Probably not the right thread to ask this, but oh well: what's the term for words that are principally known for some characteristic other than their meaning (e.g. antidisestablishmentarianism)?

In a station of the metro / My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard (Leee), Friday, 7 June 2019 19:06 (two weeks ago) Permalink

examples

mark s, Friday, 7 June 2019 19:10 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Well, antidisestablishmentarianism is known for being long rather than whatever it's supposed to refer to.

In a station of the metro / My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard (Leee), Friday, 7 June 2019 19:20 (two weeks ago) Permalink

yes it's an example of a very long word

mark s, Friday, 7 June 2019 19:21 (two weeks ago) Permalink

i mean, i know that's probably not what you're getting at -- but is this other word one that definitely exists (but you forgot it) or are you just asking *if* it exists (in which case what is it)

mark s, Friday, 7 June 2019 19:22 (two weeks ago) Permalink

I'm pretty sure the term exists, as I saw a listicle about it. Can't remember any of the other words on it, though.

In a station of the metro / My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard (Leee), Friday, 7 June 2019 19:36 (two weeks ago) Permalink

ah ok

mark s, Friday, 7 June 2019 19:41 (two weeks ago) Permalink

this sent me off on a 20-minute puzzle trying to remember the word that we now use in a different sense, that used to mean -- in classical pedagogy -- types of example, viz of grammatical usage

(where the point of the example is not the meaning of the sentence or sentence fragment but the grammatical rule it demonstrates and exemplifies)

anyway i just remembered what this word is: it's paradeigma, or paradigm… which we now almost entirely associate with thomas kuhn and changing models of knowledge

mark s, Friday, 7 June 2019 19:56 (two weeks ago) Permalink

Found the listicle, and I was wrong, apparently, there is no term for what I was looking for: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/internets-favorite-words/antidisestablishmentarianism

In a station of the metro / My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard (Leee), Tuesday, 11 June 2019 22:33 (one week ago) Permalink

A debate in the office just now - how would you write out the expression 'Catch some Zees'?

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 15:31 (six days ago) Permalink

catch some z's

Lil' Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 15:44 (six days ago) Permalink

That apostrophe is contentious

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 15:57 (six days ago) Permalink

Catch some Zzzs

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:01 (six days ago) Permalink

Yes, that's how I had it - I think I got it from comic strips

http://www.comicbookfx.com/images/12-1.jpg

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:06 (six days ago) Permalink

I'm guessing the entire shorthand started with comic strips

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:09 (six days ago) Permalink

it just occurred to me that non-Americans might pronounce it "catch some zeds"?????

Lil' Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:15 (six days ago) Permalink

that's fucked up, nigel

j., Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:16 (six days ago) Permalink

yup, that's what we say

(i mean if we say it at all, which is like nearly never)

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:18 (six days ago) Permalink

"in Japanese manga… the usual symbol for sleep is a large bubble coming out of the character's nose"

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:21 (six days ago) Permalink

apparently it's the centenary of the earliest recognised ref for zzz as snoring = the 1919 boy scouts handbook, as the cross-hed to a poor gag about sleeping

a possible source is an earlier symbol for snoring = a little pic of a log being sawn, and "zzz" beside the log bvz it's the sound of sawing (and snoring)

source: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/27045/how-did-the-letter-z-come-to-be-associated-with-sleeping-snoring

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:23 (six days ago) Permalink

when yr editing a transcription and the interviewee says "there's tons of examples" and the transcriber writes this up as "there's tonnes of examples"

but technically a tonne = 1 x metric fvckton

so which is correct

mark s, Wednesday, 19 June 2019 11:38 (five days ago) Permalink

I think you need to get in touch with the interviewee again to clarify what the examples weighed.

Alba, Wednesday, 19 June 2019 11:43 (five days ago) Permalink

I suppose it's only an issue if there are between 1.81437 and 2 tonnes of them. Otherwise, it's fine either way.

Alba, Wednesday, 19 June 2019 11:47 (five days ago) Permalink

https://grammarist.com/spelling/ton-tonne/

"British, Canadian, and Australian publications generally reserve tonne for very narrow uses (i.e., in reference to the metric ton) ... All use ton (or tons) in contexts unrelated to measurement"

seems fair.

The Pingularity (ledge), Wednesday, 19 June 2019 11:49 (five days ago) Permalink


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