The Difference Between It's and Its

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One of the most common mistakes in English is the incorrect use of the contraction 'it's' (meaning it is) and the possessive adjective 'its'.

Examples of Misused It's and Its

Here are some examples of this mistake:

  • Its been a long while since we've seen each other. (correct: It's been a long while ...)
  • We're sure that it's color is red. What do you think? (correct: ... that its color is red.)
  • I don't know it's time. Do you know if its time yet? (correct: ... its time... it's time yet?)

Of course, in spoken English, you can't tell if someone has made a mistake, but it's important not to make it in written English. Sometimes, it's just a typo (a mistake made when typing) that's caused the mistake, but sometimes the cause lies elsewhere.

Read the following sentences:

  • It's about time for the show.
  • He'll tell you about its smell.

What's the difference between 'it's' and 'its' in these two sentences?

In the first case, 'it's' is short for the verb combination 'it is' in the sentence 'It's about time for the show'. In the second case, 'its' is the possessive adjective form showing possession in the sentence 'He'll tell you about its smell.' (A possessive adjective is an adjective expressing possession similar to pronouns. Examples include my, your, his, her, its, our, and their).

Learn more about the differences between these two forms and practice to make sure you understand.

Understanding It's vs. Its

It's is the contracted form of it is or it has. This form is used in sentences or clauses with it as the subject of the sentence or clause with the verb "to be" used as either the helping verb (e.g. It's going ..., It's raining ...) or the principal verb of the sentence. At times it's is a contraction of the past participle used in the present perfect form it has been, done, rained, etc.

it's = it is

  • It's difficult to find work these days.
  • It's going to rain soon.

It's = It is is often used with adjectives, nouns, the comparative and superlative.

it's = it has

  • It's been a while since I went there.
  • It's done at the local shop.

Its is the possessive adjective form. This form is used to express that "it" has a specific quality, or that something belongs to "it".

  • I found its taste to be superb!
  • Its color is deep red, almost Burgundy.

It's vs. Its Quiz

Do you understand the rules? Practice by using the form in these sentences.

1. Do you think _______ easy or difficult?
2. My favorite book's cover is made of leather, and ______ pages are very fine paper.
3. Peter says ________ her fault, not his.
4. John told me that _______ impossible to get any work done.
5. Alan said _________ meaning eludes him.
6. Do you think ________ too late to go to the movie?
7. _________ colors include gold, purple and green.
8. ________ time to go! Come on!
9. Anna thinks _________ up to me whether we go on a week's vacation in the Bahamas.
10. Alan told me __________ structure was unique and that ________ worth a fortune!
The Difference Between It's and Its
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The Difference Between It's and Its
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