Category: 

What Is the Difference Between Its and It's?

Article Details
  • Written By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Edited By: Sara Z. Potter
  • Last Modified Date: 28 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
A chameleon’s tongue is 1.5 times the length of its body.  more...

September 1 ,  1939 :  The Nazis invaded Poland, starting World War II.  more...

A common mistake, and one that drives teachers of all levels crazy, is the mix-up between the words "its" and "it's." While the difference may not seem significant to the average writer, using the words correctly can help you appear more intelligent and educated. Many people form first impressions simply by reading someone's writing, so you want your writing to be as accurate as possible.

"Its" is a possessive adjective — sometimes also considered a possessive pronoun — meaning "belonging to it." The confusion arises because if you don't substitute the pronoun "it" for the noun, an apostrophe is used. For example, the bone belonging to the dog is "the dog's bone." The eraser on the pencil is "the pencil's eraser." Both examples use an apostrophe plus an "s" in order to attribute ownership.

When "it" is used in place of the noun, however, an apostrophe is no longer used. Instead of "a rabbit's cage," you might say "its cage." Instead of "the house's window," you would say "its window." This tends to confuse people who are used to apostrophes denoting possessives. Other examples of the possessive "its" could include the dog burying its bone in its backyard and the table which has its leg broken off and its tablecloth in need of ironing.

Ad

"It's" is a contraction. A contraction is when a new word is formed from two or more separate words. In English, an apostrophe is used to acknowledge the missing letters. "Don't" is a contraction of "do not," and "shouldn't" is a contraction of "should not." "It's" is short for "it is," or less frequently, for "it has."

Any time "it's" includes an apostrophe, the writer should be able to substitute "it is" or "it has" and have the sentence still make sense. "It's going to be my birthday tomorrow," is correct because it can be changed to "It is going to be my birthday tomorrow." "It's been two hours since I've eaten," can be verified since changing it to "It has been two hours since I've eaten," is still correct.

Therefore, it's easy to get the two words mixed up, because English does not always follow its own rules!

Ad

Discuss this Article

amypollick
Post 33

@anon286723: No, you should be using "its" because you're talking about the possessive pronoun.

anon286723
Post 32

Is this sentence 'India deserves it's potential' grammatically correct ?

anon209359
Post 30

Got the thing cleared. The article was really helpful.

anon205647
Post 29

People must love the apostrophe. Maybe that's why they write it's when it should be its.

anon176385
Post 28

I graduated from school in 2010, and am currently studying in college to get into Computer Science, but 'its' and 'it's' still drives me nuts! So now I've decided the best to remember it is to put what looks like the wrong usage, since practically everyone is used to putting 's at the end to denote a possessive. For years this word has thrown me off, and now I think I have a pretty good grasp on it!

anon160241
Post 26

A big thank you to whoever posted this article. Although I'm a law graduate (masters!) and am fairly good when it comes to the English language, the confusion between 'its' and 'it's' has bothered me for as long as I remember! You've explained the difference so clearly! Many thanks!

anon153228
Post 25

Don't ever miss the chance to educate a peer! However, you must do so with as much respect as possible. In a world where too many people are focused on flaws and differences it's hard not to feel offended by friends simply trying to help. The person is most likely just being defensive, and sometimes that's the only response you will receive. Just don't take it personally, because they most likely did learn from it.

I just hate how media dumbs people down. Laziness is not cool.

anon151988
Post 24

Thank goodness for this website. I am a graduate and I have never, ever been able to use 'it's' and 'its' properly. The further on I have progressed the less and less I have found being told it is helpful as people overcomplicate it. I must have just lost my way in junior school and never made it back! Until about five minutes ago I was still writing 'it's purchase' and absolutely baffled as all people ever say is 'it's a possessive pronoun, that is why'. One of my main life gripes has gone. Thank you!

anon142418
Post 23

"Its" is a possessive pronoun, just like "his" and "her" - neither of which have apostrophes. Other possessives include "their", "whose" and "hers" (again, no apostrophes).

Hence:

Q: Whose is that hair band?

A: It's hers. [It's = it is]

And:

Q: Where are their lunch boxes?

A: They're just over there. [They're = they are]

And:

Q: Whose mine is that?

A: That's mine! [That's = that is]

anon134791
Post 22

I am of the opinion that concurs with anon11993. I went to school at the same time, and was taught the same lessons, and that was in Australia!

Then you keep reading those of the "their" or "there" written word, when they actually mean "they're".

My thoughts are that these errors began life prior to us becoming enamoured of email, to say nothing of texting.

Ah grammar: what a delight.

anon134474
Post 21

Thanks for its and it's explanation. A rare user of english but fluent nevertheless.

anon124494
Post 20

Why would it be "Joneses" - that makes no sense at all. I would write "Jones's", which has the double merit of consistency of punctuation with the usual rules as well as consistency of pronunciation with what most people would say.

anon98722
Post 19

- anon59067: Don't worry, I was taught this as well, along with the idea that all possessives ending in "s" were to have the apostrophe after the "s". For example, "I went to the Jones' house yesterday". But apparently, now it's "Joneses". I just can't keep up!

anon86140
Post 18

The difference between affect and effect is that effect means execute and affect means influence.

anon81339
Post 16

Great article. I find it interesting how English has evolved over time and how these rules come about. I have always thought it strange how the possessive apostrophe and the inverted comma, denoting a contraction, are effectively represented in the same manner in proper nouns. Another symbol entirely may have resolved the confusion a long time ago.

anon71180
Post 15

We have become a society of lazy, poorly educated morons - it's our own doing. We say the details aren't important but the slope is indeed slippery. Spelling doesn't count, poor grammar is no big deal. E-mail is no longer considered informal communication -- it is communication, period. Make the effort. Capitalization, punctuation all reflect on how you are thought of, like it or not.

anon70488
Post 14

This has always been really confusing to me, but now I understand! Thank you so much!

anon59067
Post 13

When I was growing up, I was taught that "It's" was a contraction of 'It is' and that Its' (that is with an apostrophe after the 's') and not its represented the possessive noun. I seem to be the only person who was taught this way!

anon47947
Post 12

A few of these comments are from ignorant people. When you are in working in a professional field, writing is very important. Take it and learn from people who try to help you.

anon47377
Post 11

Over 50 years ago, my favorite teacher described the it's and its to us this way: it's relates to it is or it has. its relates to having or belonging to. have a great day to all!

petermo
Post 10

As one who has been lucky enough to have a facility for spelling and grammar, mistakes such as its and it's always irritate me. I can understand why people are confused about it, though, and wonder if one day we will change the correct usage to "it's" in both cases? There seems little point in making a distinction.

The split infinitive was also a bone of contention; now that is considered acceptable.

anon25651
Post 9

I understand the irritation regarding proper grammar. I am not the best at it, but I try. I will always ask and try to be more educated but sometimes people just do not know and I do not think that we should go around correcting other peoples emails. I know that I would find it hurtful and annoying if someone did that to me. I do not need my friends making me feel stupid.

anon24870
Post 8

Thank you! I've always been confused about the use of "its" and "it's". I knew "it's" is a contraction and "its" was possessive, but I also knew -'s denoted possession.

This especially bugged me because using poor grammar and punctuation is the most terrible thing a person could ever do.

anon24072
Post 7

Please cite some more examples of affect and effect.

Moderator's reply: Check out our article, What is the Difference Between Affect and Effect?, for more information!

anon22063
Post 6

Yes, you should have ignored the error. I believe in proper grammar; however, I do not believe we need to all act as self-appointed grammar teachers to the world. It is not ever appreciated and almost always received with disdain and irritation.

anon19231
Post 5

What about people like me who are getting to forget it because we are dyslexic ? Is it fair on us to expect us to remember all the forms that are so queer that we are forced to remember stuff which we otherwise would never have to do ? It's not easy trying to explain such stuff. Spelling reform needs to happen sticklers can goto hell. If you find anything wrong with this message bless you as god has gifted u sticklers with the ablity to mock others too.

anon18334
Post 4

There is no excuse for improper grammar when writing -- period. And don't get me started on the "your" and "you're" thing. I've finally realized that for the most part...people are idiots!

nasturtium
Post 3

I get so irritated with people who can't seem to tell the difference between these two. Or between "your" and "you're" for that matter.

anon11993
Post 2

The use of the pronoun "its" with the apostrophe (it's) was in common use to denote singular possession up until the end of the 18th century. The practise of using the apostrophe then declined but I understand was used by Dickens in his novels and continued to be used by other writers into the 20th century. Certainly when I was at school 1950's - 60's I was taught that it was still appropriate to use. I have seen it used recently and I suspect that rather than wrong usage the authors were taught as I by similar teachers to myself. I am English and was educated here in London.

anon6482
Post 1

Someone I know, in e-mail messages, uses its as a contraction without the apostrophe. It occurred so frequently that I went to the trouble of printing out each e-mail message with the error. Some day, I thought, I will bring it to the person's attention. When, at last the person made the same mistake twice in one message, I decided to send a message explaining the difference between it's and its. The person's reply was, "I know the difference. An e-mail message is just an informal means of communication, so I don't have to be correct." The person felt offended. I think he/she was embarrassed. Do you think I should have ignored the mistake?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously

Login

username
password
forgot password?

Register

username
password
confirm
email