I’ve got a lot of hair, but at the rate I keep hearing a particular verbal atrocity, I may be bald by the weekend. My friend Cami in Miami heard this from the mouth of a supposedly literate and sophisticated lecturer and reacted as badly as I do when I hear it. I’m just surprised I haven’t written about this before.
Here goes: DO NOT SAY, “My wife (or anyone else) and I’s (fill in noun).” “My friend and I’s lunch date had to be canceled.”
No such possessive “word” as “I’s” exists. I think this problem arises because so many people think I is a classier pronoun than me or my. It’s not. If you need a subject pronoun, use I. For an object pronoun, it’s going to be me or my. My wife’s and my apartment was painted last week. My friend’s and my lunch date had to be canceled.
The good news is that I have never seen anyone write this horror. You can use the search box on my blog to get more info about “I vs. me.”
I am often asked which pronoun is correct a sentence like this:
1. I appreciate you helping me.
2. I appreciate your helping me.
No one’s brain is going to explode if you choose the wrong pronoun, but “your,” a possessive pronoun, is definitely preferred.
How about this one?
1. Daniel looks forward to your arrival.
2. Daniel looks forward to you arrival.
That was easy, wasn’t it? You’d never write “you arrival” because “arrival” is a noun, and you know you need an adjective to modify it. When you use a pronoun that acts as an adjective to modify a noun, you’ll always need a possessive pronoun, in this case “your.”
That’s all for today, folks.
When I am asked what is the most prevalent mistake I see, I don’t have to stop and think about it: without doubt, it is ITS vs. IT’S. If you can’t substitute IT IS or IT HAS, you want the possessive ITS (as in “The kitten took its first steps today”).
You should apply the same test to WHOSE and WHO’S: if you can’t substitute WHO IS or WHO HAS, you need the possessive WHOSE.
1. Papa Bear roared, “WHOSE/WHO’S been sitting in my chair?”
2. Priority seating will be given to those WHO’S/WHOSE applications were received first.
3. I would like to know WHOSE/WHO’S read a good book recently.
4. My Aunt Irene is a person WHO’S/WHOSE advice I value.
5. ITS/IT’S been humid on the East Coast recently.
6. The Yorkshire terrier yanked IT’S/ITS leash out of IT’S/ITS owner’s hand and ran to the neighbors’ house.
How did you do? Was this difficult for you? In each sentence, the correct answer is the second option.
Last night my husband and I went to a lovely concert, a tenor singing Shubert’s “Winterreisse” (“Winter Journey”) a series of beautiful and sad songs accompanied by a piano. The program seemed so fitting for a cold night. The songs were written and sung in German, but on the wall above the singer an English translation was projected.
Being the grammatically compulsive person I am, I had to bring myself back to the music and try to ignore the fact that every time the word “its” was needed, “it’s” was written.
If it doesn’t mean “it is” or “it has,” you want “its,” the possessive form:
“It’s been cold and snowy in the East.” <——It has
“It’s cold even here in Los Angeles.” <——-It is
“The tree dropped its leaves.” <——-Possessive. The leaves belong to the tree.
People get confused because in English possessive nouns do take apostrophes. But possessive pronouns never do:
Hers, his, ours, theirs, yours—hold the apostrophes!