Its and It's

Commonly Confused Words

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Nordquist, Richard. "Its and It's." ThoughtCo, Jul. 15, 2017, thoughtco.com/its-and-its-1692750. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, July 15). Its and It's. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/its-and-its-1692750 Nordquist, Richard. "Its and It's." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/its-and-its-1692750 (accessed September 21, 2017).
its and it's
When it's hot, the dog sleeps in its hiding place on the old porch. (Ted Soqui/Getty Images)

The words its and it's are easily confused, but here's how to tell them apart.

Definitions

Both its and it's are based on the pronoun it, which serves as a function word or refers to a previously mentioned noun

Its (without an apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun, like his or her.

It's (with an apostrophe in front of the s) is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." The apostrophe in it's is a mark of omission, not possession.

See the usage notes below. Also see:

Examples

  • Sal placed the ring back in its box and returned it to the safe.
  • "The moon had shifted to the other side of the roof—unusually large, red, its face obliterated."
    (Isaac Bashevis Singer, The Key." A Friend of Kafka, 1979)
  • It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
  • "It's been a long day," Granny said, "and we're all rather tired."
  • "The house is there today; the manager of the liquor store lives in it. It's covered with aluminum siding; a closed-in porch has replaced the veranda."
    (Alice Munro, "Meneseteung." The New Yorker, January 11, 1988)
  • When the landlord asked about this month's rent check, Kim said, "It's on its way."

Usage Notes

"Its is a unique construction because this possessive word quite frequently gets mistaken for its cousin it's. To keep the meanings straight, you need to remember just two things:

  • Possessive pronouns don't have apostrophes.

  • It's is a contraction meaning it is. Try substituting its or it's with it is or it has, and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it doesn't, you know not to use the apostrophe." (Lara M. Robbins, Grammar and Style at Your Fingertips. Alpha Books, 2007)

    Practice

    • (a) Although _____ not yet fall, this tree is already losing _____ leaves.
    • (b) Either _____ dying, or _____ a sign that cold days are coming soon.
    • (c) If the tree dies, we'll plant a new one in ____ place.

    Answers to Practice Exercises: Its and It's

    • (a) Although it's not yet fall, this tree is already losing its leaves.
    • (b) Either it's dying, or it's a sign that cold days are coming soon.
    • (c) If the tree dies, we'll plant a new one in its place.