Navigating Between Its’, It’s & Its

Its’, It’s and Its are some of the most commonly used (and misused) three letter word-forms in English. To use them properly it should be understood that its’ is always incorrect to use, thus anytime you see you’re writing its’, substitute it for either “it’s” or “its” depending on what the sentence requires.

It’s and Its, however, are proper, provided the context it right. Before one can use them, however, one has to be clear on the simple, but counterintuitive, difference between both words, which are as follows:

It’s means “it is” and “it has.”

Its is a possessive form and denotes ownership; for example: “This place has lost its charm.”

This can be confusing because possession is generally denoted via the form which it’s takes, that is to say, if instead of, “This place has lost its charm,” one were to write, “Kyle’s lost his charm,” an apostrophe would be used between “Kyle” and the “s” whereas with “its” no apostrophe is added. The reason for this is due to the fact that possessive pronouns are never written with an apostrophe because they already imply ownership (ie. it was his; the cake was hers; this house is ours; please keep it, its yours).

With all of this in mind, it should be easy to correct the its’-it’s-its confusion in one’s writing.

Hath: Meaning & Usage

Hath (hæθ), sometimes heth, is a interesting word whom most avid fiction readers or students of history have chanced across. Hath comes from the Old English hæfþ (has) which comes from the Proto-Germanic habaiþi (has). In its common, Middle English and latter usage, hath is a third person, singular present tense of have (i.e. haveth) that can be used in relation to a man (he), woman (she) or thing (it), thus, it is a synonym of has (hast may also be utilized as a substitute). Example:

“He hath no knowledge of the broil.” (“He has no knowledge of the fight”)

According to the very excellent Collins English Dictionary, hath was in common and quite popular usage from 1708 to around 1888, where use of the word began to markedly fall off.

However, before one goes about hath-ing your haves, it bares mentioning that, to the Irish, hath has a secondary use and meaning as a mirthful exclamation. Thus, in some Irish literature (most of it archaic) hath! does not have the English meaning of have/has but rather, means instead, “ha!” or “huh!”

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Thou, Thee, Thy, Thine & Ye: Meanings & Usage

In works of old, high-fantasy or historic fiction one may have chanced across the strange words: thou, thee, thy, thine and ye. While most people understand the gist of the words (that they all refer to people), the way each is to be correctly (formally) deployed is somewhat less well understood.

Thou, thee, thy, thine and ye are archaic personal pronouns (words which are substitutes for nouns or noun-phrases) which are generally articulated in the form of subject and object (depending upon the pronouns relation to the structure of a sentence). Subject pronouns in modern English typically take the form:

  • I (singular)
  • we (plural)
  • you (singular and plural)
  • he/she/it (singular); they (plural); it (dummy)

Example: I like writing.

Whilst object pronouns take the form of:

  • me/us
  • you/you
  • him/her (singular); them (plural); it (dummy)

Example: Writing likes me.

Modern English reflexive pronouns (self-referential pronouns) typically take the form of:

  • myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself (singular)
  • ourselves, yourselves, themselves (plural)

Example: I myself find writing difficult.

The Middle English pronouns follow a similar trajectory:

  • Thou = you when the subject (“Thou liketh writing.”)
  • Thee = you when the object (“Writing liketh thee.”)
  • Thy = your possessive form of you. (“Thy blade well serves thee.”)
  • Thine = your possessive form of you, typically used before a noun. (“Thine writing smacks of mastery.” or, “The writing is thine.” — thy own can be used in place of thine to similar effect)
  • Ye = you all | all of you used when referring to a group of people (“Ye fools!”)

Or, to put it more formally:

Subject form | Object form

I — I               | Me — Me

You — Thou  | You — Thee

You — Ye       | You — You

Just like with modern English pronouns, the more you (or rather, thou) practice with the words and use them in your sentences, the easier it will be to write fluently with them. Don’t agonize over precision of grammar if, in doing so, the fluidity of the writing is shattered, especially if your (thy) work is fictional (save when it is a work of historical fiction) and focus instead on the particular way your characters speak as they won’t always speak with ‘perfect’ grammar and syntax.