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I just had a strange flashback to a conversation I had when I was in high school, with a man who was regarded by many members of a particular online community as having an impressive degree of knowledge of the English language.

The conversation centered on a claim this man made that I found very difficult to accept. I had made some remark involving the difference between it's and its (a distinction which I trust is quite well-known to the majority of users on this site), to which he had contributed, mostly phrased as an amusing aside, that there was one more word I hadn't mentioned: its', with the apostrophe at the end.

I originally thought he might have been joking, but we ended up debating this rather fervently. I seem to recall that I kept demanding he use the word in an example sentence, but he either could not or refused to do so. Yet he maintained that it is a word.

Is this true? I must concede I haven't put a lot of thought into it just now; but at the time, I was perplexed by the very suggestion that it could be a word (what could it mean?), and at the moment I can't really think of any scenario where it would make any sense.

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While I'm thinking of an answer, it's spelled apostrophe, by the way. –  Blue Magister Apr 26 '11 at 1:52
    
@Blue: Haha, wow... that's embarrassing. –  Dan Tao Apr 26 '11 at 2:38
    
I'm wondering if the phrase its and bits could be contrived in any way to make this construction. –  Callithumpian Apr 26 '11 at 4:02
    
It might be better to post your update as an answer to your own question in order to keep the Q&A format clear for future viewers. –  Callithumpian Apr 26 '11 at 13:51
    
@Callithumpian: Good idea. –  Dan Tao Apr 26 '11 at 14:32

7 Answers 7

up vote 16 down vote accepted

I found a Yon It living in Long Beach, CA. His (or her) family would be the Its. If they had a dog, it would be the Its' dog.

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Oh nice... I'm tempted to say this is actually the correct answer ;) –  Dan Tao Apr 26 '11 at 4:28
    
This is cheating!!! –  drozzy Apr 27 '11 at 13:05
    
This guy would've been perfect for my it's its interchangeable sentence answer. –  George Pompidou Jul 28 at 14:23

It is raining, isn't it?

There are two its in this sentence. The its' positions are the beginning and end.

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That word does not exist. "Its" is a possesive pronoun, so it already means "belonging to".

Source here.

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Blue Magister's answer helped me to recognize a completely different use of the hypothetical its' than what I had been considering: as a predicate adjective.

I had been thinking of words like my and yourattributive adjectives—without considering the predicate forms mine and yours. So then I thought: "Maybe its' could be the predicate adjective form of the possessive pronoun for it?" Like...

You go your way, and I will go mine.

He went his way, and the horse went its'. (?)

Well, Dictionary.com put those insane notions to rest:

While it is possible to use its as a predicate adjective (The cat is angry because the bowl you're eating out of is its!) or as a pronoun meaning “that or those belonging to it” (Your notebook pages are torn. Borrow my notebook—its aren't), such use is rare and in most circumstances strained.

So, even in these extremely awkward cases, the correct word is still its and not its', at least according to Dictionary.com.

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+1 for the thought experiment, anyway. –  Jon Purdy Apr 27 '11 at 2:56

You spoke of your disagreement with a man who was reputed to have a great deal of knowledge on the subject. In your description of that disagreement, you also stated that it occurred when you were in High School and that it was an online group with which you were involved.

Since I completed my High School years long before online discussions were even possible, I'm probably within, or much closer to, the generation of the man who claimed that its, with an apostrophe after the s, is a valid form of it. I can also assure you that, in his lifetime, he was absolutely correct!

I also remember being taught, in my early primary school years, to write its' as a possessive pronoun, but a few of my teachers also told us that the form was controversial and MAY be dropped. Apparently, at some point between then and your High School ere conflict, it was.

In fact, it was my desire to find out WHEN the rule changed that led me to your discussion. That said, can anyone enlighten me as to when the form, its' was dropped from accepted usage?

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Ha! Nice. Funny how views morph over time. Even now, though it was only a couple of years ago that I posted this question (and several years before that when the original disagreement took place), I am much more of the "language evolves and there is no correct usage" mindset than I was at the time. And so for you to contribute this insight is quite illuminating. I didn't even think of the possibility that it was simply a generational thing; he was sticking to what he learned in school, same as me. –  Dan Tao Jan 20 at 18:59

EDIT: This answer is not valid; see the comment thread.

The class of examples I can think of is quite contrived, and relies on two facts:

  • possessive 's can mark entire noun phrases (like Jim and Carrie's = [Jim and Carrie]'s, or John's brother's = [[[[John]'s] brother]'s])
  • apostrophe-s goes bare, just apostrophe, by convention, when following an S

Going off of the archaism he and his [possessions/progeny], perhaps something like:

That cockroach freaked me out. I hope it and its' deaths are fiery, unpleasant and caused by me.

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2  
I don't understand what you are doing in that sentence. It certainly looks like it should be its and not its'. –  Kosmonaut Apr 26 '11 at 2:38
    
@Kosmonaut: I am taking it and its to mean it and its children. So they as a group are suffering unpleasant deaths. I am also drawing from the parallel the noun phrase you and yours, him and his, etc. –  Blue Magister Apr 26 '11 at 2:59
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But wouldn't that be "its and their deaths" in order to be grammatical? I see what you are going for, but the sentence just doesn't compute the way you set it up. A possessive pronoun can only be linked with one noun — it can't refer to children and deaths. Also, syntactically speaking, you can't say "both he and she's car" either, you say "both his and her car". With pronouns you get the genitive case form of the word in such constructions. –  Kosmonaut Apr 26 '11 at 13:31
    
@Kosmonaut: Ah, I see. I am incorrect, then. I'll leave the answer up but put an edit on the top referring to our comment exchange. –  Blue Magister Apr 26 '11 at 17:41

The ONLY time there should EVER be an apostrophe in "it's" is when it's a contraction of "it" and "is". There is no apostrophe in the possessive form. Period.

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Welcome to EL&U. Please note that this is not a discussion forum, but a Q&A site, and the question is not about it's, but its', for which several suggestions have been given. I encourage you to take the site tour and to visit the help center for further guidance. –  choster Jul 28 at 15:40

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