|Person (gender)||Subject||Object||Dependent possessive||Independent possessive||Reflexive|
The word and term 'it' can be used for either a subject or an object in a sentence and can describe any physical or psychological subject and/or object. The genitive form its has been used to refer to human babies and animals, although with the passage of time this usage has come to be considered too impersonal in the case of babies, as it may be thought to demean a conscious being to the status of a mere object. This use of "it" is also criticized when used as a rhetorical device to dehumanize a speakers enemies, implying that they were little more than animals or objects. The word remains in common use however, and its use increases with the degree to which the speaker views an object of speech as impersonal. For example, someone else's dog is often referred to as "it", especially if the dog isn't known by the speaker, or if the dog's gender is unknown. A person would rarely say "it" when referring to his/her own cat or dog. Examples:
- The baby had its first apple.
|“||QUÆRE—whether we may not, nay ought not, to use a neutral pronoun, relative or representative, to the word "Person," where it hath been used in the sense of homo, mensch, or noun of the common gender, in order to avoid particularising man or woman, or in order to express either sex indifferently? If this be incorrect in syntax, the whole use of the word Person is lost in a number of instances, or only retained by some stiff and strange position of the words, as—"not letting the person be aware wherein offense has been given"—instead of—"wherein he or she has offended." In my [judgment] both the specific intention and general etymon of "Person" in such sentences fully authorise the use of it and which instead of he, she, him, her, who, whom.
—Anima Poetæ: From the Unpublished Note-Books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, edited by Ernest Hartley Coleridge (1895), p. 190. ["Homo" and "Mensch" are Latin and German words respectively which mean `man' in a general sex-neutral sense, as opposed to "vir" and "Mann", which mean `man' in the specifically masculine sense.]
The children's author E. Nesbit consistently wrote in this manner, often of mixed groups of children: "Everyone got its legs kicked or its feet trodden on in the scramble to get out of the carriage." (Five Children and It, p. 1).
In earlier Middle English, arising from Old English, the pronoun was hit (similar to Dutch "het" and West Frisian "hit" with the same meaning), with the unaspirated it being an unaccented form. The genitive was his, with the new form its only arising by analogy in later Middle English.
The pronoun it also serves as a place-holder subject (dummy pronoun) in sentences with no identifiable actor, such as "It rained last night.", "It boils down to what you're interested in.", or the impersonal "It was a dark and stormy night." Such usage in conversation or casual writing is acceptable. However, in serious prose, starting a sentence with it is sometimes avoided. In the latter example, a different construction might be "The night was dark and stormy." The exception for starting a sentence with it would be when the referred object is evident in the prior sentence, as in, for example, "I met her last night. It was dark and stormy."
|Look up it in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Look up its in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- William Malone Baskervill and James Witt Sewel, An English Grammar, 1896.
- On some Philological Peculiarities in the English Authorized Version of the Bible. By Thomas Watts, Esq.
- 'It', The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth edition, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000).