its – part 2

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I’d found an example of its being used as an independent genitive pronoun, something like “I ate my food and the cat ate its”. I didn’t bookmark the page, so had to lightly skim, moderately skim and finally read the book again to find it. This was not helped by the fact that I’d mis-remembered the context, and it didn’t involve the cat at all.

The novel An equal music by Vikram Seth is narrated by the second violinist in a professional string quartet in London. He plays an authentic classic Italian violin loaned to him by an old women in his hometown, but knows he must return it to her family when she dies. At one point he says to one of his colleagues: 

I’ve spent more time with it than with any living soul, but, well, it’s still not mine. And I’m not its. (emphasis added)

Despite, or perhaps because of, one instance in one published novel, I’m not sure that its used in this way is grammatical. I’ve always omitted it from my grammar summaries, but the Cambridge Grammar of the English Language includes it without comment. Does one instance of one particular construction mean that something is grammatical without question? I can easily write a sentence which is unquestionably.


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