It's or Its?

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It's or Its?

What is the difference between "its" and "it's"?

"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:
its or it's?

A Video Summary

Here is a short video summarizing the difference between "its" and "it's."

Click on the Two Correct Sentences
(Interactive Game)

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More about "It's"

"It's" is short for "it is" or "it has." This is a 100% rule. "It's" cannot be used for anything else.
100% Rule

If you cannot expand your "it's" to "it is" or "it has," then it is wrong!
"It's" is a contraction. It is just like "isn't," "don't," and "can't."

More about "Its"

"Its" is like "his" and "her." (They are all possessive determiners.) 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.)

Example Sentences 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.
  • (The first "it's" expands to "it has." The second "it's" expands to "it is.")
  • 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 determiner.)
  • 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 determiner "its.")
  • I'm astounded by people who want to know the universe when it's so hard to find your way around Chinatown. (Actor Woody Allen)
  • A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on. (Prime Minister 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. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
  • Whenever cannibals are on the brink of starvation, Heaven, in its infinite mercy, sends them a fat missionary. (Playwright 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 colors of its environment.
Read more about it's and its.

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" or "the dog's ball").

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

Don't Get It? Well, Never Ever Write "It's"...Ever!

If none of this makes sense, then never write "it's." This is a drastic solution to fix this issue, but it would work. Instead of writing "it's," write the full version (either "it is" or "it has"). If you cannot (because your sentence does not make sense), then use "its."
Ready for the Test?
Here is a confirmatory test for this lesson.

This test can also be:
  • Edited (i.e., you can delete questions and play with the order of the questions).
  • Printed to create a handout.
  • Sent electronically to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? Ms., Miss, or Mrs? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose? Glossary of easily confused words Glossary of common errors Glossary of grammatical terms What are nouns? What are verbs?