Monday, February 13, 2012

The possession gambit: his, hers, and its

Quick note: for real grammar help, I usually check grammar girl or my copy of The Elements of Style because I'm a grammar putz most of the time.

Why, I couldn't tell the difference between "Do you mind me asking a question?" and "Do you mind my asking a question?" until it was explained to me.

(This was an example in The Elements of Style as previously linked.  You'll need to hunt it down on your (check way near the bottom for your/you're) own.)  Whew.

His, hers, its.

They're (see below*) all posessive, none have an apostrophe.  Whew, solved that for the world.  Most people should no longer have trouble with its vs it's.

"He's" only works for a contraction, and "Her's" is insultingly bad.

Since the only Its' would be in the Adams Family, where It is a cousin (and therefore a proper noun,) I expect to never again see people use its or it's incorrectly.

Note for later: "theirs" and "yours" follow this rule too.  Odd what these gender neutral pronouns do.

The name is its.
The car is his.
The coat is hers.


It's raining.
It is raining.
He is raining.

Ok, the last isn't contextually right, but grammatically it works.

Also, I opted out of "she is raining," because I was afraid of certain implications.  (Sorry.)

They're, there, their

I know lots of people have trouble with these.  Some very intelligent and grammatically savvy people I've known have still struggled with there/their.  Most I've talked to say "they're" is not so troubling.  It's (see above*) a contraction and can, at the very worse, be solved by breaking it into "they are" and deciding if the verb was intended.

This was my method in grade school: his and her is theirs.

I use the "H" twice, but if you are describing something which could have been his or hers, but the there/their word doesn't have the letters to spell both (not at the same time) His and Hers, you're (gasp, more; see below below, but not way below --the asterix is too far down--) using the wrong one.

For They're, I can insert people and still have decent sentences.

They're driving to Texas.  For some reason.  Not the driving, but going to Texas.
He is driving to Alaska.
She is driving me crazy.


For There, I could use a place as an example, or just generically list "there" as a location or description (though the latter is discouraged.  By me.)

There are six cows.
He lives there.
He lives on the moon.


Their house burned down.
His house exploded.
Her house is a moldy box.

Your and you're

I didn't think I knew many people who struggled with this one until today, when three people told me they had to stop and think to get it right.  To quote one person, "It's because they both have an R in them."

I did not know how to respond.  I don't have much help with this one.  If separating the contraction does not clarify for you (or yous, depending on the region,) then I recommend avoiding either form.

The Legendary Asterix
*I thought about doing internal anchor links, but Blogger hates them.  Besides, it's a short document and they're (the audience) won't mind.  For the non html savvy, you're to ignore this comment.

Get it? I used it's, they're, and you're in my comment?

Awkward pause.

Never mind.

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