Why is its possessive form without an apostrophe, when it’s opposite of other English rules and often counter-intuitive?


See this headline: proper usage, but difficult to parse. “It’s” = “it is”, exclusively. The origin of this “exception” rule?

In: 6

English is a mess of a language, with nearly every rule having an exception.

In this case, you have identified why – “it’s” is already a word meaning “it is” – a non-possessive contraction. To avoid confusion, we created an exception to the possessive apostrophe rule for “its”

The word “its” is a possessive pronoun, the same as “his” and “hers”. The rule for using apostrophes only applies to nouns, not pronouns.

“Its” when used as a possessive isn’t a proper noun and requires no apostrophe just like his, hers, or theirs. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” requiring an apostrophe.

Apostrophe is used in English to indicate possession *and* contraction.

In this particular instance you have a conflict between the possessive “it owns” and the contraction “it is” and need to make a decision about which one will defy the rules for the sake of written clarity.

Conflicts like this arise because languages developed independent of written rules. Literacy rates were very low and spellings and grammatical rules were very much in flux during the 15th and 16th centuries when the language you know as “English” really became the modern version.

For someone who can’t read, this spelling/structure conflict is meaningless.

“Its” indicating possession without an apostrophe can also be seen in other possessive pronouns (e.g. hers, his, ours, theirs, yours).