“It’s” versus “its” and “who’s” versus “whose”

These are some tricky ones, and even people who kinda-sorta know them will still call me up to ask which spelling to use in a particular sentence.  (Which, in fact, someone did just the other day.)

The way most people remember these is that “it’s” with the apostrophe is a contraction: “it is.”  It’s the same with “who’s”: “who is.”  But I remember them from the opposite direction, and if the spellings of these two pairs give you trouble, you might try thinking of them as I do.  To wit:

“It” and “who” are pronouns.  Just like “I,” “he,” “they,” “we,” and “she.”  And the possessive form of a pronoun does NOT have an apostrophe:

  • I → my
  • He → his
  • They → their
  • We → our
  • She → her
  • It → its
  • Who → whose

If you can remember that “it’s” and “who’s” are contractions AND that “its” and “whose” are possessive pronouns, you’ll double your chances of getting those spellings right.

You’re welcome 🙂

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
This entry was posted in Grammar, punctuation, usage, mechanics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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