When to Use Its or It's

Instructor: Amanda Wiesner-Groff

Amanda has created and taught English/ESL curricula worldwide, has an M.Ed, and is the current ESOL Coordinator for the Saint Louis Public School District.

Trying to figure out whether to use 'its' or 'it's' can be frustrating. In this lesson, we will go over the differences between these two words, as well as discuss how and when to use each of them.

What's the Difference?

''This movie is horrible!!! It's story line makes no sense and its just way too long!''

You would be understood just fine if you were saying that statement out loud; however, in writing, that statement does not make much sense. Can you see why? Confusing it's and its is a mistake many people make in writing because these words are homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and have different meanings. In conversation, homophones are harmless, but in writing, they can cause a great deal of confusion when mixed up. This lesson will go over the differences between ''its'' and ''it's,'' as well as explain how and when to use each of them.

It's All About the Apostrophe

''It's'' is a contraction for the words it is or it has. A contraction is an abbreviated word that is created when letter(s) are removed from a longer word or phrase and an apostrophe takes their place. For example, ''could not'' becomes ''couldn't,'' or ''we are'' becomes ''we're.''

Look, it

When dealing with ''it's,'' many people get understandably confused. Normally, when we want to demonstrate possession, we just add an apostrophe 's to the word. For example:

  • That is Michael's bike.
  • The teacher's chair is broken.
  • My mom's new dress is green.

The rule is a little different when it comes to possession and the word ''it.'' In this situation, the apostrophe 's rule does not apply. The only time you should ever add an apostrophe 's to the word ''it,'' is when you are using a contraction for ''it is'' or ''it has.''

  • It's a beautiful day. (Correct)
  • The dog is so cute, look at it's floppy ears. (Incorrect)

So if you cannot use an apostrophe 's to demonstrate possession for the word ''it,'' then what do you do?

Its ''S'' Is Apostrophe Free

''Its'' is a possessive form of the word ''it.'' It is used to show ownership, just like you would if you were using the words, his or hers. You should only use the possessive pronoun ''its'' after you have already identified the subject of which you are speaking. This will help the reader know exactly what ''it'' is, when you refer to it. For example:

  • The car drained all of its oil in the driveway.
  • Although it was difficult, the class was enjoyable in its own interesting way.

Describing the cat

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