Category Archives: 4. Classroom Exercises

It’s or Its: Which Is a Pronoun?

With nouns, an apostrophe indicates possession (ex: Mireya’s book, the doctor’s stethoscope.) When substituting for nouns, we use personal pronouns (he, she it, we, they, etc.). However, here possession is expressed with possessive pronouns, not apostrophes.

Each personal pronoun comes with a matching possessive pronoun: his, her, and its. Most people struggle with its because they confuse it with the contraction for it is or it has, it’s. Let’s take a look:

Example: The dog was biting its paw. [The paw belongs to the dog so its is possessive.]

It’s always is the contraction for it is or it has.

Example: It’s been a particularly warm summer. [It’s is the contraction for It has.]

There is no word its’.

Choose the correct pronoun in the sentences below.

  1. The manager doesn’t think its/it’s a good idea to hire more employees during an economic downturn.
  2. The flashdrive appeared to have lost its/it’s content.
  3. Hao misplaced his phone, but he thinks its/it’s on his desk.
  4. It/It’s always fun to watch a cat chase its/it’s tail.
  5. Although Esteban enjoyed the film, he wasn’t impressed by its/it’s CGI.
  6. At its/it’s last meeting, the Board of Directors voted to allow employees to work remotely.
  7. Its/It’s not surprising to see the cost of employee benefits rising.
  8. In TechWave’s offices, its/it’s always acceptable to work on one of the many sofas placed around the open space.
  9. The marketing department lost its/it’s budget to hire freelancers.
  10. Because its/it’s been raining for a week, the Expo had to be moved indoors.

Its or It’s Exercise

AnswerKey_Its or It’s

Fixing Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers

Dangling and misplaced modifiers can be amusing. But a misleading sentence such as A wart appeared on my left hand that I want removedcan also create awkward prose. The following exercise with answer key will help you understand and learn to fix this common writing error.

A dangling modifier describes or limits a word or words that are missing from the sentence. A misplaced modifier occurs when the word or phrase it describes is not close enough to be clear. In both instances, the solution is to move the modifier closer to the word(s) it describes or limits.

Dangling modifier:  While searching the web, a virus infiltrated my computer.

Revision:  While searching the web, I discovered that a virus had infiltrated my computer.

Misplaced modifier:  She died in the house in which she was born at the age of 88.

Revision:  At the age of 88, she died in the house in which she was born.

To detect—and remedy—dangling modifiers, ask the question who or what?after an introductory phrase. The words immediately following should tell the reader who or what is performing the action.

Dangling modifier:  After working ten hours, the report was finally completed.

Revision:  After working ten hours, we finally completed the report.

Students: Find the dangling or misplaced modifier and rewrite the sentence correctly.

  1. After leaving the office, Sarita’s car would not start.
  2. Skilled with accounting software, the personnel manager hired Ann Pearson, CPA.
  3. Skilled at graphic design, the contract went to DesignPlus.
  4. Walking up the driveway, the Hummer parked in the garage was immediately noticed by detectives.
  5. To meet the deadline, your Excel figures must be received before June 1.
  6. As an important customer to us, we would like to tell you that we have moved our administrative offices.
  7. The attorney said his client was returning from the swimming pool when, without warning, she was bitten by a snake on her right foot.
  8. The Park Hotel is just one of the Art Deco buildings you can see strolling about South Beach.
  9. Firemen rescued a dog from a car that had a broken leg.
  10. Acting as CEO, several new employees were hired by Mr. Sanchez.
  11. I accept your kind offer to serve on the committee that I received on May 3.
  12. To find a good job, diligence and perseverance are needed.

Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers Exercise


Learning to Distinguish Between Who, That, or Which

Instructors: Answer key is downloadable at the end of this post.

Careful writers and speakers distinguish among the relative pronouns who, that, and which.

WHO is used to refer to persons. It may introduce essential or nonessential clauses.

ExampleAnyone who can build social media followers is in demand. (The relative clause who can build social media followers is essential. Without this clause, the sentence says that anyone is in demand. However, only one who can build social media followers is in demand.)                         

ExampleKevin Lee, who is excellent at building social media followers, made our brand grow 25 percent over six months. (The relative clause who is excellent at building social media followers is nonessential. It describes but does not limit the main clause. The main clause can stand alone without the added information. Hint: When individuals are named, information added in whoclauses is almost always nonessential. Notice that commas set off nonessential clauses.)

THAT refers to animals or things and should be used to introduce essential clauses.

ExampleThe Instagram account that Kevin created attracted many followers. (The relative clause that Kevin created is essential. What web site attracted many visitors? Only the Instagram account that Kevin created attracted the visitors. Don’t use the relative pronoun whichto introduce essential clauses.)

WHICH refers to animals or things and introduces a nonessential clause.

Example The Instagram account, which was totally redesigned by Kevin Lee, has helped our brand grow. (The relative pronoun clause is intended to be nonessential. Because it merely adds extra information, it is set off by commas.

The tricky part is deciding whether a clause is nonessential. Nonessential clauses contain information that the reader does not need to know; the main clause is understandable without this extra information. In some cases, only the writer knows whether the clause is intended to be essential or nonessential. If a clause is intended to be nonessential, it should be set off from the rest of the sentence by commas.

In the following sentences, revise any incorrect relative pronouns and punctuation. Mark Cif the sentence is correct.                                                                                   

  1. On Instagram it’s more important to have 1,000 followers that actively participate than 10,000 fans that were purchased.
  2. Our customer account teams, that were recently developed to meet our changing business needs, will analyze your business operations from every angle.
  3. Any site who has free delivery will appeal to potential customers.
  4. Anyone that has recently purchased a smartphone knows how quickly they become obsolete.
  5. Managers are looking for people that have good vocabularies, grammar, and manners.
  6. The new rules which will become effective July 1 are intended to increase worker safety.
  7. Jeffrey has a dog who likes to eat cold pizza.
  8. Many assembly work areas provide a special handle which can be pulled to stop the line if an imminent danger arises.
  9. Some of the parts which were moving down the assembly line required special robots to lift them onto the cars being assembled.
  10. Our team which has the authority to set up its own work schedules tries to rotate the hardest jobs.
  11. We appointed a safety committee which provides guidelines to individual work units.
  12. Hawaiian Vintage chocolate which is grown in the fertile regions of Kona and Keaau is the only chocolate produced from American-grown cocoa beans.
  13. Those chocolate lovers who are willing to pay the high price of $56 a pound appreciate the fruity aroma and intense taste of Hawaiian chocolate.
  14. Any car which is traveling over the speed limit will be ticketed.
  15. Western rattlesnakes who are the most common rattlers in the West hibernate together in large numbers during the winter months.

Distinguishing Who, That, Which Exercise