Monday, November 5

Posted by Laurel Garver on Monday, November 05, 2012 9 comments
I've been reading more Indie authors these days, now that I'm one myself. One error I keep seeing is confusion about its/it's, who's/whose, etc. It seemed that a quick primer would be useful to lots of folks.

The rule here is very simple. Put it on an index card if you must.

Simple pronouns DO NOT take apostrophes in their possessive form. 
Pronouns morph into new words.
If there is ownership involved, no apostrophe. Got it?

Here is a quick run-down of the pronouns and their possessive forms:

I love MY sweater. It is MINE.

YOU love YOUR sweater. It is YOURS.

HE loves HIS sweater. It is HIS.

SHE loves HER sweater. It is HERS.

IT displays ITS sweaters. They are ITS.

WE love OUR sweaters. They are OURS.

YOU (plural, like y'all) love YOUR sweaters. They are YOURS.

THEY love THEIR sweaters. The sweaters are THEIRS.

WHO loves WHOSE sweaters? The sweaters are WHOSE?

These stand-ins for nouns take apostrophes only as contractions--when paired with a truncated verb (who's means who is, who was, or who has). I'll give more detailed descriptions in a separate post.

Compound pronouns behave like nouns. They DO use an apostrophe in the possessive form:
anybody's picture
anyone's coat
everybody's problem
everyone's favorite
nobody's fool
no one's girl
somebody's pet
someone's present

Do possessive pronouns trip you up? 


  1. I don't usually run into problems with these. What sends me running for the grammar book is the possessive form of a group, like Tim's, Dave's, and Becky's house or Tim, Dave, and Becky's house. Had to look that one up recently.

    1. Interesting. That one's pretty simple--same number of apostrophes as items possessed. occasionally it will be a really odd combo you have to deal with, like a single person and a couple: "The tree fell on Tim's and Dave and Becky's houses." Two houses, two apostrophes.

  2. Possessives don't trip me up, but WHO and WHOM sure do!

    1. I think it's because whom is rapidly disappearing from speech. All over the place I see pro-pet adoption car magnets that say "who rescued who?" Er, yeah, that should say "who rescued whom?" Once upon a time, I could say switch in HE and HIM to test which sounds right. That doesn't seem to help much any more.

      I'm having to revert to sentence diagramming language. Use the M version for objects. Things, people acted upon. "I was chasing whom in the dark?"

  3. They don't trip me up, either. I even have Karen's issue figured out, but that's after I had to research the answer.

    Thanks for the reminder, Laurel. :D

    1. I'm lucky to have such grammatically in-the-know followers. :-D

  4. You wonderful PSAer. Great reminder~ <3

    1. Had to look that abbreviation up. I was pretty sure I didn't talk about prostate cancer. :-D LOL. Public service announcement. Gotcha. Though I've been called a superhero with a red pen.

  5. I do have index cards of grammar rules including one on possessives. I highly recommend them!