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I am under the impression that we use the apostrophe to describe ownership. Someone would say "This is Jennifer's coat" to mean that the coat belongs to her, as opposed to, for instance, "Jennifers are people who enjoy arranging flowers" implying there are more than one of Jennifer.

However, I have been told that if I were to say "It's coat" I would not be saying (for instance) "The monster's coat" but rather I would be saying "It is coat".

What is the difference here? Can you explain how the apostrophe works in greater detail?

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  • The short answer -- and way to remember -- is that it is a word in the group "his, her, its". – Joe Blow Sep 9 '14 at 7:47
  • The mods on ELL thought this would be a good fit for their site, so I'm unduplicating it and sending it over there. – Kit Z. Fox Sep 9 '14 at 15:51
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This is one of the many cases in which English doesn't make a lot of sense. :)

I think the difference here is between regular or proper nouns and pronouns.

Regular nouns do not have possessive forms; rather, you make a possessive form by adding an s to the end. To help distinguish between possessive and plural, the possessive form includes an apostrophe.

With pronouns, the possessive forms are separate words. Thus we say his, not him's; hers, not her's, and its, not it's.

The case where it's includes an apostrophe is when it is used as a contraction. it's is shorthand for it is. This leads to a rule of thumb for the word its: if you could replace it with it is, then use the apostrophe; otherwise, don't.

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