Its vs. His or Hers

Can we use 'its' instead of 'his' or 'hers'? If so, when? Are they truly interchangeable? To understand more about these pronouns, read this part.

"Its" vs. "His" or "Hers" in the English Grammar

What Causes the Confusion?

One of the recent controversies in the grammar world is gender-neutral language. It means to use language in a way that includes both males and females and non-binary people equally and in the same way.

What Did We Use to Refer to People?

In the past, people used 'he', 'him', 'his' etc. as a generic pronoun to refer to people in general (regardless of their genders).

Everyone is to be held responsible for his actions.

Others used 'his or her' or 'he or she' to be more specific in including both genders into their writing.

Everyone is to be held responsible for his or her actions.

What Is a Generic Pronoun to Refer to People?

So, to solve this problem, they have introduced a new gender-neutral pronoun called the singular 'they'. It can be a generic pronoun and refer to people in general or a person who does not want to be referred to as a 'he' or a 'she'.

Everyone is to be held responsible for their actions.

But Can We Use Its instead of His or Hers?

The simple answer is no. You cannot use 'its' to refer to human beings. 'Its' mostly is used to refer to things and animals. The only case we refer to humans by 'its' is when we want to:

  1. refer to babies
  2. refer to a collective noun such as a committee, group, team etc. (in American English)

The baby picked up its pacifier.

The committee has managed to voice its proposal. (Mostly AmE)

The committee have managed to voice their proposal. (Mostly BrE)

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