Whose v. Who’s

Again, this is a case of an apostrophe indicating NOT a possessive, but rather, a contraction. (If you couldn’t tell, I have a thing about the proper use of apostrophes.)

Even though it does not have an apostrophe, whose is a possessive adjective that implies ownership (it’s in the same group as his, hers, yours, and its). It is often used as an interrogative, that is, in a question. 

Who’s is the contraction of the words who and is. It is not possessive.

Examples:

  • Whose purse is that? (To whom does that purse belong?)
  • I don’t care whose cookie is bigger! (I do not care who has a bigger cookie!)
  • Who’s coming to dinner? (Who is coming to dinner?)
  • I wish I could figure out who’s eating all my cookies. (I wish I could figure out who is eating all my cookies.)

Their v. They’re v. There

Many people have trouble with this one, but once you understand it, it’s quite easy to get it right.

Their is a possessive pronoun, like its, his, hers, and so on. Their indicates ownership by multiple subjects (a group of owners of the modified object). (Note that in this case of e and i together in a word, the e comes before the i.)

They’re is a contraction of the words they and are and means they are

There indicates location.

Example:

  • The children are going to the park this afternoon; they’re going to invite their grandmother to meet them there. (The children are going to the park this afternoon; they are going to invite their grandmother to meet them at that location [the park].)
Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 8:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Its v. It’s

The rules for Its v. It’s are much like those for Your v. You’re. As I explained last week, an apostrophe does not always indicate a possessive; sometimes it indicates a contraction. And sometimes a possessive word (in particular, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners) does not have an apostrophe at all. This is true in the case of Its v. It’s.

Much like his or hers, its is a possessive pronoun that ends in the letter s but does not have an apostrophe. A possessive pronoun is used to modify a noun by showing ownership of the item named by the noun.

It’s is a contraction. A contraction is a combination or shortening of words. It’s is the contraction of the words it and is. A less-common contraction of it and is is ’tis.

Examples:

  • That painting is lovely; its frame complements it very well! (That lovely painting’s frame complements it very well!)
  • It’s so cold outside! We’d better wear gloves. (It is so cold outside! We had better wear gloves.)

Next week’s post: Their v. They’re v. There

Your v. You’re

An apostrophe does not always indicate a possessive; sometimes it indicates a contraction. And sometimes a possessive word (in particular, possessive pronouns and possessive determiners) does not have an apostrophe at all. This is true in the case of Your v. You’re

Your is a possessive (determiner) pronoun. A possessive pronoun is used to modify a noun by showing ownership of the item named with the noun.

You’re is a contraction. A contraction is a combination or shortening of words. You’re is the contraction of the words you and are

Examples:

  • Is that your new car? (Does that car belong to you?)
  • What do you think you’re doing? (What do you think you are doing?)