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McDonald's is trying to convince us that it's not a psychopath for putting poison in their drinks to save money.

Can you use it even when using personification like in the sentence above? What's the consensus on this?

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Ok, so bear with me here for a minute...

Answer: Using personification in a sentence does not restrict or prevent you from using "it's".

Also Answer: As for this sentence specifically, you can technically get away with using "it's", however, "they're" is (likely) more appropriate. It all has to do with the intention behind the words, context clues & the user's opinion. Please allow me to explain.

On the surface this appears to be a simple and straightforward question with a simple and straightforward answer. Of course, an argument(s) can be made for either answer which is why I say it's a matter of opinion.

The simple and straightforward answer would be: Yes, you certainly can use "it's" even when using personification (like I already said). It is entirely appropriate to use "it's not", "it is not" or "it isn't" because "It" is used when referring to a company. So since "it's" is nothing more than a contraction of "it is" there's no problem with using it.

That being said, I'm not so quick to agree with that in this instance. The issue being with this specific sentence that you referenced in your question. Again, please allow me to explain.

If you are talking about a company but you are referring to the people that work at said company you would use "they" instead of "it". I was thinking about how McDonald's is being used in your example and one could make the case that personification isn't actually present in this sentence. It might say McDonald's but it's not referring to it as an inanimate object like a building, restaurant etc. When you say/write "McDonald's is trying to convince us..." what you're really saying is the people that work for McDonald's (ie. executives) are trying to convince. Therefore, in my opinion either "they're not", "they are not" or "they aren't" should be used in this sentence. One other interesting fact to be considered - in America corporations are considered people ("persons") under the law. This is a big deal as one of the biggest impacts this has is in the grammar world. All of this might seem like a bit of a reach and overly complicated but you wouldn't have asked if you weren't questioning it in the first place.

So... Can you use "it's" & personification in the same sentence? YES. Would have a problem if you were to use "it's" in THIS sentence? NO, probably not. What is most appropriate & accurate for this sentence? "They're not", "they are not" &/or "they aren't".

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Yes, you can. Saying "it's" there is perfectly natural and proper. Remember, McDonald's still isn't even personified when you call it "it," not that that would really matter. If I say, "The car stared me down with its glowing eyes and wicked grin before it charged at me," I could say "her" and "she" or "his" and "he" in place of "its" and "it," but it's not required, nor does not doing so make it not personification.

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I would prefer it isn't over it's not, but the sentence is not grammatically incorrect.

American and British English are also different regarding collective nouns, so while an American might say "McDonald's is," and personify the company as a single entity, a Brit might say "McDonald's are" because they're talking about the people who work at McDonald's.

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  • Your syntactic quibbling is nonsense.
    – user139818
    Commented Jul 19, 2021 at 10:03

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