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gailcalled's avatar

What's with the apparently endless confusion between it's and its?

Asked by gailcalled (54507points) July 15th, 2010

It’s simple, it would seem. The apostrophe replaces an “i,” as in “it is.” “Its” is possessive, as in “Virtue is its own reward.” It’s the damnedest thing to see it turn up all over the place.

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54 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, where my confusion came in is when you say “It’s foot was hurt….” Well, I saw that as a possessive, see? However, my boss taught HS English for a million years, so she quickly cerrekted me! Something about you only use the possessive with….nouns…?

netgrrl's avatar

Even more annoying is the fact that my iPhone auto-corrects its to it’s every time I type it. So if I am not careful, it will go out that way.

chyna's avatar

I don’t understand the confusion with the two either. On some very rare occasions, I will omit the apostrophe out of being in a hurry, but I do understand the difference.

gemiwing's avatar

I get the difference, I just type faster than I should at times. It makes me grind my teeth when I see one that I’ve missed.

DominicX's avatar

You do realize that you’ve posted this same question twice already (and probably more if I looked). :P

I say the same thing every time you post it: people make mistakes. Just because someone uses the incorrect form does mean that they don’t understand the difference. When you type quickly, you can make errors like that. The words are very similar; it’s easy to leave out an apostrophe when typing quickly. It doesn’t necessarily mean the person does not understand the difference.

Lecturing people over and over again isn’t going to prevent typing errors in people who do understand the difference. There are always going to be errors and that’s just part of life.

ucme's avatar

It’s not unusual as the welsh warbler would have put it.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@DominicX I, for one, always appreciate grammar lessons. I’ve never seen this question before. Post away @gailcalled!! It’s appreciated! Yes it’s. (Hm. The contraction didn’t work so good there, did it!)

whitenoise's avatar

Its is like his and hers. It’s is like he’s and she’s.

The confusion comes from the word image of the possessive ‘s, combined with the relative high frequency in daily usage of it’s, as in it’s late.

Due to our frequent exposure to it’s, it’s will feel intuitively to be the correct form and its similarity to the possessive ‘s makes the confusion quite understandable.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@whitenoise Well said. Thank you!

whitenoise's avatar

@Dutchess_III You’re welcome.

Not being a native speaker makes that stuff complicated for me as well, so…. like you, I appreciate these types of discussions recurring.

gailcalled's avatar

@DominicX: I know that I, like others, repeat myself here, but I did choose social and I didn’t ask about 1) my latest dream or 2) my b/f’s need to watch porn and text other teeny-boppers.

And note that I was interested in the decline of its correct use in many newspapers, blogs, crawls, letters to the editors, and magazines.

And if you think that was my idea of a lecture, you ain’t seen nothing yet, kid.

bob_'s avatar

People are lazy, ignorant and/or apathetic.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, @bob_ who’s the one who can’t even make his own sandwich??!!
Or @bob_ like me, I just didn’t know. I was confusing the possessive apostrophe, such as “That is Bob’s sandwich” with the word “it’s”

bob_'s avatar

@Dutchess_III Not knowing = ignorance. I guess you didn’t know that, heh.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@bob_ It’s splitting hairs, I know, but I think “ignorance” is something more willful than just not knowing. It’s like you DO know. You’ve BEEN taught, but you decide to disregard it.

bob_'s avatar

@Dutchess_III That would be apathy.

gailcalled's avatar

Or you’re still in third grade and have yet to be aware of possessives and apostrophes.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes that too. Well, I don’t feel like making you a sandwich. Maybe later.

Just the word “ignorance” has a much harsher over tone to it than “not knowing.” IMO.

MissAusten's avatar

I also think there are people who just don’t naturally find grammar and spelling to be easy. My husband is very intelligent, but can’t spell worth a damn. He also seems to have problems with commas and other forms of punctuation, including the distinction between it’s and its. It isn’t that he doesn’t care or is ignorant, he just can’t quite keep the rules straight in his own mind. If he didn’t care, he wouldn’t constantly ask me how to spell or beg me to proofread what he’s written.

For me, it comes rather easily. I had the same public school education as almost everyone else I know, and yet only one or two of those people have the same (not perfect, but better than average) grasp of such rules. I chalk it up more to different strengths than lack of intelligence or understanding.

ratboy's avatar

@gailcalled, you should show a bit of gratitude. Its a global conspiracy to give you a reason for living.

rebbel's avatar

And if i don’‘t pay attention to my keyboard manoeuvres, i’‘ll find double apostrophes’’ in everything i write, because my keyboard isn’‘t working how it should be working.
So i always have to backspace after i hit the apostrophe when writing it’s.

rebbel's avatar

@Dutchess_III
I get two apostrophes every time i hit the apostrophe button.

Dutchess_III's avatar

(Well, sell one of ‘em!)

mattbrowne's avatar

Its only a problem when our brain and it’s syntactic processor is switched off.

gailcalled's avatar

@mattbrowne: C’est vrai que l’apostrophe is used in French, for elision however. Does it appear regularly in German?

@rebbel: On my keyboard, the double apostrophe (or quotation mark ”) is on the same key as the ’ and appears when I hit “shift.”

mattbrowne's avatar

@gailcalled – No, letters like é, è or ë do not exist in German, but we got ä, ö, ü and ß.

rebbel's avatar

@gailcalled
As it is on my keyboard.
If i hit shift when pushing the apostrophe button i get double quotations…
Probably has something to do with configuration of the keyboard…or it is time for a new one?

gailcalled's avatar

@rebbel: You’re the expert. I have no idea.

@mattbrowne: What’s ß used for? I know in Hebrew, some letters have a slightly different shape when used at the end of the word, as does the Greek sigma.

Dutchess_III's avatar

You guys…all keyboards have the apostrophe and double apostrophe on the same key, and you use the shift to alternate between them, just like you use the shift to type in special characters from then number line. Been that way since the invention of the typewriter…Am I’m not understanding what you’re talking about?

gailcalled's avatar

@Dutchess_III: @rebbel said: _If I hit shift when pushing the apostrophe button I get double quotations…

So, he hits shift and instead of getting this ”, he gets ””. That is a double quotation mark. I don’t think that a double apostrophe exists, but I could be wrong (it has happened).

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gailcalled ? I’m getting confused. @rebbel Do you mean you get ”” when you hit the shift key? If so, you might see about going into your settings and slowing down the key strokes….
Gail..I meant quotation marks, but I thought that’s what rebbel was referring to when he said, “double apostrophe.” No, I’m sure there is no such thing as a double apostrophe except that it creates quotation marks! ’’ < Double apostrophe!

breedmitch's avatar

@gailcalled The ß is a double “s” and can be used as such. So you can write “grosse” or “große”.

gailcalled's avatar

@breedmitch: Hey, buddy, I have missed you. People from Texas both drink vintage wine AND speak German?

Is that something similar to the old letter that made Greenfleeves look like that?

breedmitch's avatar

Howdy Maude! I had two years of German in HS and two years in College. So at least when I’m drinking a Trockenbeerenauslese I know how to say Trockenbeerenauslese.
Trockenbeerenauslese

Dutchess_III's avatar

@breedmitch How do I make that cool B-looking letter?

breedmitch's avatar

I cut and pasted it from Maude’s post. I’m sure there’s another way.
edit: looks like you can go here in windows…

Start -> Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Character Map.

The character is called an “esset”.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@gailcalled How do you make that cool looking B-letter?

bob_'s avatar

Alt + 225

ß

Or get a German keyboard.

gailcalled's avatar

On a Mac, I hold down the option key and hit the “s” key simultaneously. ß

Dutchess_III's avatar

ß :) Danks bob!

bob_'s avatar

@Dutchess_III Bitte schön!

Oh, by the way:

ä = ae
ö = oe
ü = ue

Dutchess_III's avatar

“Bite the scone??”
Cool info, bob!

mattbrowne's avatar

@gailcalled – There’s a rule in German allowing the following replacements (it came into existence after typewriters were invented):

ä can be written as ae
ö can be written as oe
ü can be written as ue
ß can be written as ss

What’s ß used for? Well, it’s like a 27th letter. It does change the meaning of words. Example

Die weiße Farbe – the color white
Die weise Frau – the wise woman

gailcalled's avatar

So how would you say “the wise white woman”?

Die weise weiße Frau?

mattbrowne's avatar

Exactly :-)

The rules for which types of adjectives go first are very similar to the ones in English.

bob_'s avatar

@gailcalled I’d use a comma.

gailcalled's avatar

Die, weise weiße Frau? looks very odd.

bob_'s avatar

Die weise, weiße Frau.

Like the quick, brown fox.

whitenoise's avatar

So, weißt du den Komma nicht besser zu weisen?

gailcalled's avatar

Just what I don’t have time for now…learning some German. I am really tempted, however, since I enjoy that so much more than marketing and emptying the litter box.

mattbrowne's avatar

@whitenoise – Weißt du nicht wo das Komma hingehört?

@gailcalled – Yes, learning a foreign language is a major endeavor and it does require a lot of time.

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