Three errors you commit using ‘his’


Akeem Lasisi

The word is a very common one. It is so commonly used that it is difficult to believe that such mistakes are often made around it.

 Is it not the same pronoun – possessive pronoun – that one has always used in speech and writing? Indeed, let whoever has never used ‘his’ many times raise their hand! (I hope you have no problem with my use of ‘their’ instead of ‘his or her’ here. Perhaps there will be time to say something on this before the end of the class.)

First: his, not is

The first problem that usually manifests in the handing of ‘his’ is that many pronounce it as ‘is’. They fail to pronounce the H (/h/) that starts it, so that there is eventually no difference between how ‘his’ and ‘is’ sound.

This is a deficiency many of us need to rebuke. I think the challenge is rooted in mother tongue interference on the part of some of us. I, for instance, know that many Yoruba users of English do face this dilemma because although there is /h/in the Yoruba orthography, it rarely begins a word. As a result, such people are not used to it.

This is merely a matter of explanation, not an excuse for anyone not to consciously adjust – at least over time. So, stop pronouncing ‘his’ as ‘is’.

Second: Z, not S

The letter s that ends the pronoun should be pronounced as Z not S. How many of us observe this rule? Too few indeed. The word should sound as hiZ, not hiS.

This shows a major difference between the pronunciations of ‘his’ and ‘hiss’, as the latter ends with S. Please pronounce both to establish the difference based on the observation I have made.

Why does the s in ‘his’ change to Z overnight? The reason is that (I don’t need to say ‘the reason is because’!) in the English phonology rule, ‘s’ is often pronounced as Z when it is preceded by a vowel. That is why is, was, has and wise should end with  when pronounced. Another quick exercise here: pronounce is, was, has and wise now, making the ‘s’ in them come out as Z. Then, ensure you continue to do so from now.

Third: Mind the difference between ‘his’ and ‘he’s’

Always remember that ‘his’ is a single, independent word while ‘he’s’ is the contracted form of ‘he is’. In other words, the latter harbours two content words – a noun (subject) and verb. Many people mix up the expressions because they fail to respect the difference. Here is an exercise to establish the point:

If … not there, let me know. (his/he’s)

    … the one who asked me to come. (His/He’s)

    … sister has travelled. (His/He’s)

    This is your ruler; give him …(his/he’s)

I hope you know that the correct answers, respectively, are he’s, He’s, His and his.

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