When to Use It’s vs. Its

By Alan Reiner – December 18, 2023

Understanding the difference between “its” and “it’s” is crucial to improving your written English and avoiding common grammar mistakes. These two words may look almost identical, but their meanings and functions within a sentence are distinct.

“Its” is a possessive form of the pronoun “it”, which is used to show ownership or belonging to inanimate things or ideas. On the other hand, “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”, often used to make sentences more concise and easier to read.

By keeping these differences in mind, you can navigate the tricky waters of grammar and ensure your writing is clear, polished, and free from commonly confused words like “its” and “it’s”.

Its vs. It’s: Clearing Up the Confusion

When dealing with “its” and “it’s,” it’s crucial to understand the difference between the two. “Its” is a possessive form of the pronoun “it,” meaning something belongs to “it.” For example:

  • The dog wagged its tail.

On the other hand, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” For example:

  • It’s been a long day (It has been a long day).
  • It’s raining outside (It is raining outside).
It’s been a long day (It has been a long day).

To determine which one to use, try substituting “it is” or “it has” into the sentence. If the sentence still makes sense, use “it’s.” Otherwise, use “its.” Remember, the apostrophe in “it’s” indicates that part of a word has been removed, just like in other contractions such as “can’t” for “cannot” or “she’s” for “she is.”

Understanding ‘Its’: A Closer Look

‘Its’ is the possessive pronoun form of ‘it,’ signifying possession or ownership. It’s related to other possessive pronouns like ‘his,’ ‘her,’ and ‘their.’ When using ‘its,’ you refer to a specific quality of an entity or indicate that something belongs to ‘it.’ 

The possessive form enables you to demonstrate a connection between a noun and the entity it belongs to. Unlike other possessive pronouns, ‘its’ does not require an apostrophe to indicate possession, making it unique among personal pronouns.

Deciphering ‘It’s’: What It Really Means

Understanding the Contracted Form

“It’s” is a contracted form that can stand for two different phrases: “it is” or “it has.” This shortened version serves to make sentences more concise and natural-sounding. As you write, always be aware of the context to understand which meaning “it’s” takes in a particular sentence.

The Role of Apostrophes

Apostrophes play a significant role in distinguishing “it’s” from “its.” In the case of “it’s,” the apostrophe represents the omitted letters in the contracted form. Remember, “it’s” is a substitute for “it is” or “it has,” whereas “its” is a possessive form that shows ownership or attribution.

Here are some examples for clarity:

  • It’s raining outside. (It is raining outside.)
  • It’s been a long day. (It has been a long day.)
  • The bird flapped its wings. (The bird flapped the wings that belong to it.)

Choosing Between Its and It’s: A How-to Guide

Implementing the Guidelines in Practice

In writing, it’s crucial to properly differentiate between “its” and “it’s.” “Its” is a possessive pronoun, like “his” or “her,” used for gender-neutral nouns.

For example, “The dog guarded its bone.”

For example, “The dog guarded its bone.”

On the other hand, “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” For example, “It’s a beautiful day.”

It’s a beautiful day. (It is a beautiful day)

To ensure correct usage, always replace “it’s” with “it is” or “it has” in your sentence. If it makes sense, then the contraction is appropriate. Otherwise, use “its.”

Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Using “it’s” instead of “its” when showing possession, and vice versa.
  2. Writing “its’” (incorrect) instead of “its” for possessive form.
  3. Relying solely on spellcheck or grammar tools, as they may not always detect this type of error.

To improve your skills, try taking quizzes or practicing with sentence examples. Remember, the key to mastering this aspect of writing is constant practice and ensuring you understand the difference between the two words.

Examples: Its and It’s in Action

In order to effectively use “its” and “it’s” in your writing, it’s important to understand the difference between the two and see examples of how they function in sentences.

Its is a possessive pronoun, used to indicate that something belongs to or is associated with something else, without having a defined gender. Here are a few examples:

  • The dog wagged its tail.
  • The computer is known for its high processing speed.
  • The organization implemented its new policy.

In formal writing, using the full form (“it is” or “it has”) is often preferred, but in casual or informal situations, “it’s” is commonly used. Remember to choose the correct form based on context and intended meaning. By mastering the differentiation between “its” and “it’s,” your writing will become clearer and more professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some examples of using ‘its’?

‘Its’ is used to indicate possession or ownership for a non-gendered subject. Examples include, “The dog wagged its tail,” or “The building had its windows cleaned.”

When should ‘it’s’ be used as a contraction?

‘it’s’ is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” Use ‘it’s’ when you want to shorten these phrases. Examples include, “It’s raining outside,” or “It’s been a great day.”

What is the function of ‘its’ as a possessive form?

The function of ‘its’ as a possessive form is to show that something belongs to or is associated with an object, animal, or thing. ‘Its’ is used similarly to the possessive forms ‘his’ and ‘her.’

Can you provide a sentence using ‘it’s’?

A sentence using ‘it’s’ as a contraction could be, “It’s going to be a beautiful day today.” Here, ‘it’s’ is a contraction of “it is.”

What is the main distinction between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’?

The main distinction between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ is that ‘its’ is a possessive pronoun, while ‘it’s’ is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” ‘Its’ shows possession, while ‘it’s’ is used for a shortened form of the two phrases.

Are there any common mistakes when using ‘its’ and ‘it’s’?

Common mistakes when using ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ include confusing the two and using them interchangeably. It’s essential to remember that ‘its’ indicates possession, while ‘it’s’ is a contraction. Double-check your writing to ensure you are using the correct form.