The Difference Between It's vs. Its

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One of the most common mistakes in English is the incorrect use of the contraction 'it's' 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 its important not to make in written English. Sometimes, it's just a typo that's caused the mistake, but sometimes its cause lies elsewhere. By the way, did I use 'it's' and 'its' correctly in the last sentence? 

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.' 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. 

Questions

  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. ________ 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!

Answers

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

It's = It Is vs. It Has Quiz

Decide whether it's means it has or it is. What kind of word follows it's in each sentence?

Questions

  1. It's been a long time since we saw each other last.
  2. It's time we leave for the concert.
  3. It's hard to know how much to study before a test.
  4. It's more exciting than I remember.
  5. It's the strangest day of my life. 
  6. It's lasted for many years.

Answers

  1. it has / been -> past participle
  2. it is / time -> noun
  3. it is / hard -> adjective
  4. it is / more exciting -> comparative form
  5. it is / the strangest  -> superlative form
  6. it has / lasted -> past participle

This is just one of the most common mistakes in English

Grammar Terms Explained

contraction = Shortened form of two words, often used to combine a pronoun with a verb

do not -> don't
it is -> it's 
it has -> it's

possessive adjective = An adjective expressing possession similar to pronouns

my
your
his
her
its
our
their

typo = a mistake made when typing that's easy to miss when you double check your document

There many people who make typos. (there should be they're)
Its time to go home. (its should be it's)

adjective = word used to describe something.

It's a big house.
It's a difficult test.

comparative form = a grammar form used to compare qalities between two objects

It's longer than most songs.
It's more complicated than that. 

superlative form = a grammar form used to compare three objects or more to state which has the most of a quality

It's the most fun I've ever had!
It's the least difficult part of the test.