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University of Houston - Victoria
Apostrophes

 

Common Possessive Pronoun Mistakes

 

There are a few common errors that appear in students’ writing.

 

Its and It’s


Its is always a possessive pronoun. It's is the contraction for it is. One cannot be substituted for the other.

Ex. The bird built its nest. correct

The bird built it’s nest. incorrect

Explanation: Expanding the contraction by supplying the missing letters (it's=it is) makes it easy to see that the sentence no longer makes sense: In the second example, the contraction it’s would mean “The bird built it is nest.”

Ex. It’s the dawning of the time of revolution.

Self Test: When trying to determine whether to use it’s in a sentence, replace the contraction for the two separate words it is.

 

They’re and Their


They’re is a contraction for the words they are. Their is a possessive pronoun. One cannot be substituted for the other.

Ex. They’re the only ones who know the information. Correct

Their the only ones who know the information. Incorrect


Explanation: In the first sentence, the contraction They’re would


Expand to They are the only ones who know the information.

Ex. Their books were left on the table.

Notice: No possessive pronouns require an apostrophe.

 

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