A few weeks ago I revealed the fact that I was trained as an English teacher. My friends' and readers' reactions were mixed: some were delighted; others, horrified. Some couldn't care less.
To be honest, English grammar is a subject about which many people couldn't care less. And quite frankly, in a world where most communication is spoken, grammar doesn't really matter all that much. But as bloggers, we're now living in a world in which much of our communication is written. . . and in the world of writing, grammar is important.
Do you know why grammar is important? Did you ever have an English teacher explain to you the purpose behind the rules? Or did you suffer at the hands of seemingly uncaring teachers who sought only to cover your papers with red marks?
Well, if I'd been your English teacher, the first thing I would have explained is that grammar is not important in and of itself. It's part of a larger package: the package of language. Language is a gift from God, and the purpose of language is communication. Who cares if you know the rules of grammar? Honestly--who really cares?
Here's a better question: who cares if you can use the language adeptly? Who cares if you can make yourself understood? Who cares if you can avoid being misunderstood? I'd like to suggest that we should all care about that.
So I'm going to try something here. I'm going to offer a little lesson on grammar. If y'all like it and think it's helpful, I'll do it once a week.
I'll start today by explaining how to use the words "its" and "it's."
You probably already know that it is a pronoun. And you know that a noun is a word that names something--a person, place, thing, or idea. We don't usually have any problems using nouns. A pronoun is a word that can take the place of a noun. Personal pronouns are some of the niftiest, most useful words in our language. Imagine having to communicate without ever using the words I, me, you, he, she, or it. Yikes! It would be nearly impossible.
But there's something you need to know about pronouns. Personal pronouns are not ever spelled with apostrophes, not even when you write the possessive form of them. This confuses people, who are accustomed to adding an apostrophe + s to a word to form a possessive. That is the rule for forming the possessive of a singular noun, but not for a pronoun. So if you want to say that something belongs to it, the word you want is its. No apostrophe.
Now here's the tricky part. Pronouns can be used to form contractions. You remember contractions: handy little words that are actually the combination of two words, with some letters left out. The left-out letters are represented by an apostrophe. For instance: don't is a contraction of the words do and not. An apostrophe replaces the missing "o" when the two words are combined.
So here's your rule: Use an apostrophe in the word "its" ONLY when you mean to use the contraction of "it is."
It's = it is
Its = belonging to it
If you're ever unsure, stop and ask yourself: Can I replace the word "it's" with the words "it is"?
It's a beautiful day today. It is a beautiful day today. Yes!
The cat licked it's foot. The cat licked it is foot? No way! The word needed here is "its."
So what do you think? Should I put on my English teacher hat once a week? Would it be helpful to you? Or are you grateful that you're out of high school and don't ever have to think about English grammar again? Please let me know what you think!