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Its and It's (The Difference)

The Quick Answer
It's is short for it is or it has. For example:
  • It's amazing.
  • (It is amazing.)
  • It's got to be a joke.
  • (It has got to be a joke.)
Its is the possessive form of it. For example:
  • I can see its eyes.

It's and Its

There is often confusion between its and it's. If you delve deeper into this issue, you will see that there is good reason for the confusion. However, if you just want to know what is right, the matter is very simple.

It's

It's is short for it is or it has. This is a 100% rule. It cannot be used for anything else.
If you cannot expand your it's to it is or it has, then it is wrong!

Its

Its is like his and her. (They are all possessive adjectives.) Look at these examples:
  • These are his pies.
  • (His is used for a masculine possessor (owner).)
  • These are her flowers.
  • (Her is used for feminine possessor.)
  • These are its footprints.
  • (Its is used for neuter possessor.)

Examples with It's and Its

Here are example sentences with it's and its:
  • It's been raining for a week, and now it's starting to snow.
  • (Both expand to it has.)
  • It's one of the hardest courses in it's history.
  • (The first it's is correct. The second should be its.)
  • I think the company wants to have its cake and eat it.
  • (This is correct. The its is a possessive adjective.)
  • The reef shark chases it's prey through the coral.
  • (This is wrong. It should be its. It cannot be expanded to it is or or has so it must be the possessive adjective its.)
  • I'm astounded by people who want to know the universe when it's so hard to find your way around Chinatown. (Woody Allen)
  • A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. (Winston Churchill)
  • There is nothing in the world like the devotion of a married woman. It's a thing no married man knows anything about. (Oscar Wilde)
  • Whenever cannibals are on the brink of starvation, Heaven, in its infinite mercy, sends them a fat missionary. (Oscar Wilde)
  • Constant company wears out its welcome.
  • A frog can't empty its stomach by vomiting. To empty its stomach contents, a frog throws up its stomach first, so the stomach is dangling out of its mouth. Then the frog uses its forearms to dig out all of the stomach's contents and then swallows the stomach back down again.
  • A completely blind chameleon will still take on the colours (colors ) of its environment.
Read more about it's and its.
Quick Test
 
 
Top Tip

Never Ever Write It's (The Easiest Way to Get It Right)

It's a bit severe fix, but you could get away with never writing it's.

Instead of writing it's, write the full version (i.e., it is or it has). If you cannot (because your sentence does not make sense), then use its.

Beware

Why Is There Confusion?

Apostrophes are used to show possession. For example, the possessive form of dog is dog's (as in the dog's teeth).

Therefore, somewhat understandably, many think that the possessive form of it should be it's. It seems to fit the pattern. To make matters worse, there is some evidence that the possessive form of it used to be it's. The word it's is used erroneously (by today's conventions) throughout the American Constitution.

Note

Its Is a Possessive Adjective

The words his, her, and its are known as possessive adjectives. There are no apostrophes in any possessive adjectives (except for one's).