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 (sixteen years ago) link

its

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

close brackets

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

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

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

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

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

grammarian cluster alert!!

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

What if your name is "it"?

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

it licked his wounds

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

apostrophes are so last century

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

theyre the microhouse of punctuation

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

"and then smog licked ott's wounds"

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

just use "him"

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

(nutcase) Yes maybe you're right.

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

How about:

Giving feedback to subordinateS helps them learn.

Dilemma solved.

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

Use "him/the dog".

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

kate is OTM.

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

"giving feedback to a subordinate helps rammstein learn"

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

But it's fine in spoken English?

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

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

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

I use Shem to mean both.

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

"Them".

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

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 (four months ago) link

catch some z's

Lil' Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 15:44 (four months ago) link

That apostrophe is contentious

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 15:57 (four months ago) link

Catch some Zzzs

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:01 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

I'm guessing the entire shorthand started with comic strips

mark s, Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:09 (four months ago) link

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

Lil' Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:15 (four months ago) link

that's fucked up, nigel

j., Tuesday, 18 June 2019 16:16 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

"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 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

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 (four months ago) link

three months pass...

Let us learn to call people by their name, as the Lord does with us, and to give up using adjectives.

— Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 24, 2019

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Tuesday, 24 September 2019 22:59 (one month ago) link

Good Lord

kinder, Wednesday, 25 September 2019 08:54 (one month ago) link

Not using adjectives is very difficultly.

Instant Carmax (Ye Mad Puffin), Wednesday, 25 September 2019 09:47 (one month ago) link

pontifex otm, adverbs can also eff off

mark s, Wednesday, 25 September 2019 09:57 (one month ago) link

Seriously I think this may be my favourite ever papal statement about anything, not just because of its high bathos but because HE'S RIGHT

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 25 September 2019 10:08 (one month ago) link

I think you mean HE IS

rob, Wednesday, 25 September 2019 11:31 (one month ago) link

i do

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Wednesday, 25 September 2019 11:34 (one month ago) link

There are no nouns in Tlön's conjectural Ursprache, from which the "present" languages and the dialects are derived: there are impersonal verbs, modified by monosyllabic suffixes (or prefixes) with an adverbial value. For example: there is no word corresponding to the word "moon,", but there is a verb which in English would be "to moon" or "to moonate." "The moon rose above the river" is hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo, or literally: "upward behind the onstreaming it mooned."

The preceding applies to the languages of the southern hemisphere. In those of the northern hemisphere (on whose Ursprache there is very little data in the Eleventh Volume) the prime unit is not the verb, but the monosyllabic adjective. The noun is formed by an accumulation of adjectives. They do not say "moon," but rather "round airy-light on dark" or "pale-orange-of-the-sky" or any other such combination. In the example selected the mass of adjectives refers to a real object, but this is purely fortuitous. The literature of this hemisphere (like Meinong's subsistent world) abounds in ideal objects, which are convoked and dissolved in a moment, according to poetic needs. At times they are determined by mere simultaneity. There are objects composed of two terms, one of visual and another of auditory character: the color of the rising sun and the faraway cry of a bird. There are objects of many terms: the sun and the water on a swimmer's chest, the vague tremulous rose color we see with our eyes closed, the sensation of being carried along by a river and also by sleep. These second-degree objects can be combined with others; through the use of certain abbreviations, the process is practically infinite. There are famous poems made up of one enormous word. This word forms a poetic object created by the author. The fact that no one believes in the reality of nouns paradoxically causes their number to be unending. The languages of Tlön's northern hemisphere contain all the nouns of the Indo-European languages - and many others as well.

Fox Pithole Britain (Noodle Vague), Wednesday, 25 September 2019 11:44 (one month ago) link

<3

Fizzles, Wednesday, 25 September 2019 21:17 (one month ago) link

whatever you say LIddle' Pope Francis

The Ravishing of ROFL Stein (Hadrian VIII), Friday, 27 September 2019 19:08 (one month ago) link

Saw this headline in this morning's London Metro, it's wrong, seriously wrong, but I can't get to the bottom of why:

BRAWL BREAKS OUT ON HOL JET AS PASSENGER IS SPAT IN FACE

it needs the preposition 'at' I think, because this form is transitive, but I got lost in the undergrowth. as it is it sounds like some unnamed entity has gobbed a passenger out into some other unnamed entity's face.

Fizzles, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:38 (one month ago) link

'hol jet' is a trying construction

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Monday, 7 October 2019 14:41 (one month ago) link

What's a hol jet?

☮ (peace, man), Monday, 7 October 2019 14:45 (one month ago) link

this solves any word-length issue (53 characters to the original's 57):
BRAWL ON HOLIDAY JET AFTER PASSENGER’S FACE SPAT IN

mark s, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:46 (one month ago) link

Beautiful scansion and internal assonance though. I'm chanting that headline to the tune of the chorus of "The Human Beings" till somebody makes me stop as PASSenger is SPAT in face

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JipPo-tb5wg

mick signals, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:47 (one month ago) link

xp You want your face spat in? I've a mind to spit your face in!

mick signals, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:48 (one month ago) link

SPIT HAPPENS

ogmor, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:48 (one month ago) link

SPIT SPAT SPARKS JET BRAWL

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Monday, 7 October 2019 14:51 (one month ago) link

SPIT SPAT SPARKS FLIGHT FIGHT

weatheringdaleson, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:52 (one month ago) link

A+ the both of yous.

Fizzles, Monday, 7 October 2019 14:55 (one month ago) link

teamwork!

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Monday, 7 October 2019 15:01 (one month ago) link

hol jet gob scrap

mark s, Monday, 7 October 2019 15:04 (one month ago) link

SKY SALIVA SHENANIGANS

Instant Carmax (Ye Mad Puffin), Monday, 7 October 2019 15:07 (one month ago) link

as a verb spit can be transitive and intransitive, so i think the issue is simply that the object of the transitive form is what gets spat (the ejecta if you will) rather than the target of the spitting

mark s, Monday, 7 October 2019 15:19 (one month ago) link

yes, that makes sense.

Fizzles, Monday, 7 October 2019 15:46 (one month ago) link

SPIT SPAT IN FACE IN FACE SPIT SPAT

mick signals, Monday, 7 October 2019 15:49 (one month ago) link

The same problem as with "Queen Elizabeth to be evacuated in case of Brexit unrest".

The Pingularity (ledge), Monday, 7 October 2019 15:53 (one month ago) link

looking all this up i got distracted by the fact that ejecta and object have the same latin root (jaceo, I throw)

ejecta comes from ejicio, also meaning throw or cast (but i think in a more urgent way)
object come from objaceo, which means "i lie at the mercy or "i lie blocking the way" (of whatever, in each case) -- so a object is a thing chucked down in front of you blocking yr way which is at yr mercy, good work everyone

mark s, Monday, 7 October 2019 15:56 (one month ago) link

DE SPUTUS DISPUTANDUM EST

mick signals, Monday, 7 October 2019 16:00 (one month ago) link

de sputo, but yes

mark s, Monday, 7 October 2019 16:10 (one month ago) link

Thank you

mick signals, Monday, 7 October 2019 16:12 (one month ago) link

shuttle spittle battle

too many cuckth thpoil the broth (darraghmac), Monday, 7 October 2019 16:28 (one month ago) link

fox in socks, my game is done, sir

Li'l Brexit (Tracer Hand), Monday, 7 October 2019 17:54 (one month ago) link

CABIN JABBIN' AFTER SPEW STEW

The Ravishing of ROFL Stein (Hadrian VIII), Monday, 7 October 2019 21:42 (one month ago) link


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