The Great Possessive Apostrophe War



I keep seeing writing where the writer uses “it’s” instead of “its” to indicate a possessive pronoun. So let me say here and now: IT’S WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!”

But there was a time deep into my early years (no, no dinosaurs still roaming) when the possessive pronoun was burdened with an apostrophe, as in:

“It’s as if my car’s computer has lost it’s mind.”

Don’t stand confused; the first word above is a contraction of “it is.” And computers don’t have minds – at least not yet. All righty then, why not “your’s?” “Their’s?” “Her’s?” Truth is, once upon a time some grammarians thought that both nouns and pronouns should have “apostrophe s” to indicate the possessive. A war ensued, apparently lasting into the middle twentieth century, and the use of apostrophes in pronoun possessives was eliminated.

According to one comment on the subject found on the web,

Its is just as possessive as cat’s, but it doesn’t have an apostrophe. Why not? Because the printers and grammarians [of the nineteenth century – Alex B.] never thought the matter through [emphasis mine – Alex B.]. They applied their rule to nouns and forgot about pronouns, thus creating an exception (along with the food is hers, ours, yours, theirs) without realizing it. And even if they had noticed, they wouldn’t have done anything about it, for it’s was already taken, as it were, as the abbreviation of it is.

If you sided with the apostrophe to indicate possessive in pronouns, you’ve lost the war.

It’s its!

So now maybe I’ll tackle the more recent change from an apostrophe to indicate the possessive for nouns ending in “s”  to “apostrophe s.” As in:

“We’re going to the Jones’ home for dinner,” changing to “We’re going to the Jones’s for dinner.”

No one ever said grammar rules had to be consistent.


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