A question is raised from The Element of Style. At first, the little book talks about some rules of usage. However, I am confuse with the use of its.

I know her and hers. So question is

Which one is its similar? I think it is hers. Then what is the analogue of her? And some examples will be better. Thank you.

  • 1
    You should be aware that Strunk & White is a controversial work. It has many useful and true observations about good writing; but it also reflects a very old-fashioned formal style and puts forward "rules" which have never been rules of actual English usage. Many people think very highly of it; but many other people regard it with complete contempt. Feb 14, 2014 at 15:39

1 Answer 1


"its" is actually the same for both forms:

A: his her its --> "That's his/her/its ball"

B: his hers its --> "The ball is his/hers/its"

It's just that we don't use the B form very often with "its": "The ball is its" just sounds unnatural (and could lead to the very confusing "It's its"!).

If we are speaking about an "it", it is usually because either we don't know if it is biologically male or female, or it is something that does not have a biological gender.

In both cases, we tend to either use type A construction or use the possessive noun:

"That's its ball" or "The ball is the dog's" or "That's the dog's ball", but not "The ball is its".

"That's its leg" or "The leg is the table's" or "That's the table's leg", but not "The leg is its".

Of these choices, "The ball is the dog's" is probably least common, but it is not incorrect.


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