Here is a quote from "Ever Wonder Why / the color red angers a bull? " (page 20).

It has been suggested that this reaction to red (my note: of bull which is color-blind to a shaking cape in red) may be due to its being the color of blood.

My question : the above "its" should be "it"?


3 Answers 3


The reason why its is used here is that the gerund, being, plus its constituent, the color of blood, are together treated as a noun; and this noun is modified by a possessive adjective, its. Alternatively, you could say its modifies only the head of the noun phrase, being. If you replace the gerund phrase with a regular noun of equivalent meaning, the possessive adjective is even compulsory:

It has been suggested that this reaction to red may be due to its bloody colouration.

Traditionally, the possessive was or is considered compulsory by many style books, especially with pronouns, like its. This is probably seen as correct by almost everyone. But many others would write a simple personal pronoun, it, which is considered correct by some but not by others.


the phrase could perhaps be best understood to say:

this reaction to red may be due to its color being that of the color of blood.

This seems to be a construction used when something is due to a quality

...as arche was conceived of as divine, and its divinity was not only due to its being first, but also, more importantly was due to its inherent circular motion.
In the early 1500s, Latin was the most widely-studied foreign language due to its prominence in government, academia, and business.
British weather unique in the world due to its being an island

I can't find a grammatical reason for this (someone might be able to) but this is definitely its proper form. If one searches "due to it", one will find mostly blogposts, etc.

  • The presence of 'due to' is incidental. Cerberus's answer correctly identifies the Poss-ing construction involved. Jan 22, 2014 at 7:46

I think it would be useful to build a parse tree of this sentence. Then it would be clear that "due" binds to "its" weaker than "its" to "being". "due to (its being the color of blood)", so to say.

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