Q: "It's" as the possessive?

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Tue Aug 11 14:22:23 UTC 2009

On Aug 11, 2009, at 5:39 AM, Joel S. Berson wrote:

> At 8/10/2009 03:35 PM, Joel S. Berson wrote:
>> A correspondent on another list asks, when did "it's" as the
>> possessive come to be proscribed?
> I don't think anyone has yet addressed the question asked.  Not when
> did "it's" arise (the OED is voluble on that).  Not when "it's" began
> to come (back) into noticeable presence.  But -- when did it come to
> be *proscribed* (that is, by the prescriptivists)?

MWDEU's entry for "its, it's" cites Lowth 1762 as giving "its" as the
possessive form of "it", Baker as switching from "it's" in 1770 to
"its" in 1779, and Lindley Murray 1795 going for "its".  summary:

(p. 566) The possessive pronouns were a complete muddle in the 18th
century. The grammarians were divided between apostrophized and
unapostrophized forms, and frequently their own usage contradicted
whatever conclusions they had reached.


once again, let me recommend that people with questions on english
usage and the history of prescriptions on points of usage start by
looking at MWDEU.  it doesn't have everything you might want, but it
has a lot.


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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