Using “they” vs. “its”

Grammar Tutorial

Using "they" vs. "its"

Intro

This may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re talking about people you refer to them as “they.” When you’re referring to a business, you use “its.”

However, it starts to get dicey when you’re using collective nouns, for example, team.

Correct: Scranton’s field hockey team won the world championship, so they got pizza after the game to celebrate.
Incorrect: Scranton’s field hockey team won the world championship, so it got pizza after the game to celebrate.

The trick to remembering this is that if the collective noun used in the sentence refers to people – team, staff, clique, board, etc. – “who” is grammatically correct to use.
“It” is used when referring to a business or place in and of itself.
Correct: The University of Scranton has a strong athletic program. Its field hockey team won the world championship this year!
Incorrect: The University of Scranton has a strong athletic program. Their field hockey team won the world championship this year!

In this case, the grammatically correct pronoun is “its” because it is reflecting back onto the university, not the collective noun team.

Sample Problem

Incorrect: Scranton’s field hockey team won the world championship, so it got pizza after the game to celebrate.

Incorrect: The University of Scranton has a strong athletic program. Their field hockey team won the world championship this year!

Solution

Correct: Scranton’s field hockey team won the world championship, so they got pizza after the game to celebrate.

Correct: The University of Scranton has a strong athletic program. Its field hockey team won the world championship this year!



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