Pet Peeve: It’s v. Its

Irish Goat. Source: http://www.flickr.
Image via Wikipedia

This has nothing to do with real estate, but sometimes just walking around gets my goat. Irascible? Could be I didn’t get enough Prozac, but really it’s my previous identity as an English instructor claiming her ground.

What is it that makes my hair go on fire? ” It’s” and “its”—why do I see them mixed up all over the place?  Here’s the lowdown on these two homonyms, pronounced the same, but mixed up everywhere I look.

“It’s” with an apostrophe is ALWAYS a contraction for “it is.”

You know: “It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to.” So far, so good. The problem, I think, comes with “its” which is actually easier–no apostrophe. “Its” is a possessive.  My friend, the goat here, has horns on its head. Just as I might have a hat on my head or you on your head or my heighbor on his head. It has horns on its head. These are possessive adjectives.

The problem comes from two sources. One would be the possessive pronouns–this is my hat, mine or your hat, yours or the goat’s horns, its.

Oops, see that…how did that goat get an apostrophe? Of course, that’s the second confusion–regular possessives or possessive of regular nouns, another pet peeve of my goat.

Let’s see how they work. For a singular noun like a goat to own something, we say, for instance the goat’s horns when we mean what in French or Spanish would be put as the horns of the goat. What about a herd of goats with all those horns? The goats’ horns…Got that? The horns of the goats…For plurals ending in s as most of them do, the apostrophe comes AFTER the s.

As for plurals which don’t end in s, like children, say, what about those?   Then, we would put it as the children’s shoes, for example, the shoes of the children .  That’s it. That’s the entire thing.

So, why did I see the other day while perusing the Internet as I am wont to do--Directory of Innovative Physician’s. It makes me want to bleat like my goat….To me, that says Directory of Illiterate Physicians… or…Directory of An Innovative Physician’s What? Inventions, Assistants, Treatments, Diagnoses?  Or, it is supposed to be Directory of Innovative Physicians’ Dreams, Investments or what?

See what I mean? Pass the Prozac. I think I’m going to need a BIG bottle. Where are the Innovative Physicians when you are actually looking for them?

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