Resolved: We abolish the apostrophe in English.

I cannot get over how difficult some otherwise literate people find it to distinguish between “it’s” and “its”, “your” and “you’re”.

I have even seen a Hallmark card that said “Sorry your sic” (sic). I mean, this thing went through some sort of verification process before they printed up a few million, no?

People on this board discuss the US giving up it’s (sic) colonies.

I am plain sick and tired of nagging and trying to explain it to people, and I am not even an English teacher, for Chrissake! English is not even my mother tongue.

The problem is that the rules about “it’s” and “its” are almost a contradiction of the normal rules on apostrophes.

Normally, an apostrophe and an “s” mean either possessive or are a contraction of “(something) is.”

John’s a good guy = John is a good guy.
That book is John’s = That book belongs to John.

Winter’s fury = the fury belonging to winter
Winter’s coming = Winter is coming

BUT:** it’s = it is**; and. . . . . . . . . its = belonging to it.

It’s lucky you were there.

The car had lost its bumper.

It is almost a contradiction of the normal rule!

At a certain point, you have to stop whipping a dead horse. If people do not want to learn how to use the apostrophe, maybe we should abolish it. People would figure out what word is being used from the context. After all, you can’t hear the apostrophe when people speak and people seem to understand.

It is not a contradiction. You’re merely applying the wrong rule. “It” is a pronoun, not a noun.

He’s a good guy = He is a good guy.
That book is his = That book belongs to him.

They’re good people = They are good people.
That house is theirs = That house belongs to them.

Now look again at your examples:

It’s lucky you were there.
That car had lost its bumper.

Make sense now? You can argue that the rules for pronouns should be consistent with the rules for nouns, if you like, but it’s/its is perfectly consistent with other pronouns.

As for the other thrust of your OP, I don’t believe we should cater to the lowest common denominator. Writing requires that certain conventions be in place in order to be comprehensible; it doesn’t have the fluidity of spoken language.

I agree that we should not cater to the LCD normally. But I get so sick and tired of banging my head on a brick wall!

I’m tired of rants against improper use of the apostrophe.

It’s interesting that you felt you had to go through a detailed explanation on the proper use of the apostrophe, complete with examples. Were you worried that we’d all read the OP with total lack of comprehension?

Maybe you’re thinking if you explained it - one last time - that everybody who hadn’t grasped the concept would suddenly understand and stop making this mistake.

No. Those who don’t understand the rules by now aren’t going to catch on with one final explanation. And those who understand the rules but still don’t apply them properly are just careless or perhaps lazy and are therefore impervious to adjustment.

The problem is that it’s not just apostrophes. People today can’t seem to use commas effectively even though they are critical to expressing yourself in written work. mistakes happen, and internet writing is informal anyway, but I still see wild posts dashed off in some sort of incomprehensible grammar-free gibberish.

I actually find apostrophes to be a great indication of someone’s literary intelligence. When someone at work sends me an email or a document riddled with apostrophe errors I know to review everything I get from them veeeeeeeeeery carefully… like a warning flag. Therefore, I vote NOT to abolish.

Norwegian pretty much doesn’t have possessive apostrophes, and they seem to do fine. So, I see no reason not to.

What a waste it’s to lose ones mind. Or not to have a mind its being very wasteful.

My favorite is comma usage. People either don’t use them or WAY over-use them. Don’t even get me started on semicolons.

If both “your” and “sic” were misspelled, I suspect it was on purpose.

What the card actually said was “Sorry your sick”. :smack: I spelled it wrong.

After lecturing everybody else about mistakes, I spelled it wrong. :smiley: :smack: :smack:

It is absolutely clear from the rest of the card that no joke was intended. The rest of the message was just a smarmy “get well” sort of thing.

However, my mistake can be excused as a simple typo on an internet message. Presumably, a card sold in every major card store must have been read and reread and checked before they printed it. And NOBODY caught it?

Haha, I tend to do that too. I suppose it’s not very nice of me, but I simply don’t see what is so difficult about getting it right.

Grumble, grumble, bad-tempered Celyn. :smiley:

The “its/it’s” problem is interesting, as this is perhaps the most common mistake of all and it’s covered by a simple rule that’s about as close to perfectly regular as the English language can muster: If you mean “it is,” insert the apostrophe; otherwise, omit it.

As BayleDomon points out, it’s fully consistent with rules for other pronouns.

. . . and replace it with declensions. 57 cases, like Finnish or Vulcan or something. Then, once everyone’s sobbing and whimpering, trying to remember the difference between instrumental plural and ablative dual, we say, “Just kidding!” and bring 'em back.

The language has gone to hell ever since the Normans showed up, I tell ya.

That rule may seem simple to you, but it had me confused for decades. After all, yes, I understand that apostrophes are used for contractions and this case is not a contraction. But on the other hand, apostrophes are also used for possessives and this case is also a possessive. So which rule do we use?

Well, I am a person who did catch on with one final explanation. After decades of confusion as I wrote above, someone finally explained it to me: “No! Its is not a possessive like John’s or England’s. It’s more like his and hers and ours, which do not take an apostrophe.” And ever since hearing that explanation, I’ve had no trouble at all.

(Xema used the word “pronoun” to describe this, which I’ll accept as more correct than my use of the word “possessive”, but either way, it’s the comparison to “his” and “hers” and “ours” which provides the key to the puzzle.)

The rule IS consistent when explained as pronouns, etc., but how many people even remember what pronouns are after they leave school? What makes it counterintuitive is that “book’s” or “car’s” or John’s" can mean EITHER “belonging to the book, car or John” or can be a contraction for “book is, car is or John is.”

But then, we expect people 20 years out of school to remember that when it comes to the word “it’s”, it cannot serve as a possessive. It can only serve as a contraction for “it is”. There is another form spelled “its” that means “belonging to it”.

Even the explanation that it is similar to “his, hers and ours” is NOT valid, as I will explain in another message, because we do not use them like “its” in sentences. “Its” is used like “his” but NOT like the other two.

You say “That is his car. That is its destiny”

But you do not say “That is ours car. That is hers destiny.”

So even that confuses the Hell out of people.

But remembering that “his” and “its” are brothers works pretty well.

Or maybe we can make up a little rhyme that would help people remember.

That explanation is wrong, though, or at least incomplete. We are talking here more about “its” and “his” the adjectives, not the possessive pronouns, so we should compare them to “her” and “our”, not “hers” and “ours”.

That’s his car - adjective
That car is his - pronoun

Just to show you how much confusion can result in people trying to remember grammar rules they learned in school:

“Hers, its, ours, theirs” are not equivalents, because they are not used in the same way.

I have NO IDEA what the grammar term for these pronouns is, but consider for a second how they are used.

  1. You have one class of words to express possession that are used only when not directly in front of the noun they modify: mine, yours, his, hers its, ours, yours, theirs. Most of these possessive whatevers take an “s” but none take an apostrophe.

Mine is the morning
That money is yours
That book is his/hers
The branch is its (however, this construction is never used; you would more likely say “That is its branch”)
Ours is the heavier job
The problem is theirs

  1. You have one groups of whatevers used to express possession that are used only when in front of the noun they modify: my, your his, her, its, our, your, their. Note the added confusion of the fact that “its” retains its “s”. Note the added trap inherent in the fact that “his” and “its” are identical in both usages, but not “her” or “our”. More areas for confusion.

My morning
Your money
His/her book
Its branch
Our heavy job

I KNOW there are all good reasons and rules behind it, but take pity on the poor people who have to remember them. If you start telling them “its” is like “his, hers and ours” you will really confuse them.

How about taking it one step at a time?

Let’s see who can invent a little rhyme that compares “his” only to “its”.

This one I just made up is pretty lame, but see if you can improve on it.

“If “HIS” can own without apostrophe
Then its cousin “ITS” should likewise be.”

Okay, it sucks! Look, I haven’t had mine third cup of coffee, so cut me some slack. :smiley:

To steal a song from a Strong Bad Email (I would look it up and link to it, but I can’t really do that from work):

While I know the rule grammitically I always end up second guessing myself in any situation where I can’t look it up (i.e. taking an essay test), and I must admit that I have used this song more than once to double check to make sure I am getting it right.

Your right. Mine bad.

Sorry! :smack: