Style lesson #2: More Contractions


I previously spelled out the difference between your and you’re in last week’s post. This time I will be sorting out its from it’s, and their from they’re; one a pronoun, the other a contraction.

Like you in the previous lesson, its and their are the possessive forms of the pronouns it and they. If you simply want to say that someone has ownership of something, you use either possessive depending on the pronoun.

For example:

The Ramirezes were present during the eldest daughter’s recital.

They were present during the recital.

Their presence was important.

In this case, you wonder, whose presence was important? And you point to the Ramirezes. Their presence was needed.

Similarly its refers to the possessive of it, a singular pronoun that refers to something whose gender we aren’t sure of or where a gender-neutral pronoun is preferred.

The labrador was not feeling well.

It had not eaten for days.

Its owner, Jeff, who was away on a business trip, was worried.

In this case, instead of saying The labrador’s owner, you use the possessive form its.

That (long) clarification aside, let me just reiterate that in the case of they’re and it’s, which are contractions, the apostrophe is meant to symbolize letters that were taken out to shorten the word.

Thus, they’re is short for they are, and it’s is the abbreviated form of it is.

They are supposed to be here!

They’re still on the road.

It is unbelievable how so many online writers get contractions all wrong.

It’s sad that this erroneous practice is propagated.

There. I hope that was clear enough. For any questions, you know how to reach me: the Contact page has my e-mail address.

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About Karla

I am an e-mail marketer, editor, and writer. My passions are yoga, food, and Filipino arts and culture.

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