Its vs It’s (Which One to Use)

When someone is writing in a hurry, it can be extremely easy for them to mix up its vs it’s. This is especially true because these two words to not follow the same rules that most other words follow.

Usually, when you want to make a noun plural, you add an “s” to the end. For example, a dog becomes the dogs. This is not the case for it, “its” is not the plural version of it. Additionally, usually, when you want to show possession, you add an apostrophe and an s. For example, if a dog belongs to Jane, one might say Jane’s dog. “It’s” is not the possessive version of it. So how do you use “its” and “it’s”?

Its

There will never be a plural form of it, just like there is not a plural form of she or he as they are all singular pronouns. When replacing a plural noun with pronouns, you would use pronouns that are already plural like they, them, or their. So what does “its” mean?

All About Possessive Form

The possessive form shows a relationship of ownership and belonging between two nouns. One noun has ownership over another. This is usually shown by an apostrophe and s being added to the end of the noun with the ownership: “Jack’s,” “Lucy’s,” “Dog’s,” “France’s,” etc. When it comes to possessive form and pronouns, it also shows the relationship but is done in a different way. All that is needed is an s (and even that is not always used.)

There are two kinds of possessive pronouns: weak (adjective) and strong (absolute.) Strong possessive pronouns come after the object/noun being possessed has been stated. For example, “that ice cream is mine” or “that book is yours.” On the other hand, weak possessive pronouns are also known as adjective pronouns because they come right before, and therefore describe, the noun being possessed. For example, “my ice cream” or “your book.”

Strong Possessive Pronouns

  • mine
  • yours
  • his
  • hers
  • ours
  • yours
  • theirs
  • its

Weak Possessive Pronouns

  • my
  • your
  • his
  • her
  • its
  • our
  • your
  • their

First off, notice how even when an s is used for possessive pronouns, there is no apostrophe. “Its” (not it’s) is a possessive pronoun, and, as you can see in the lists above, it can act like both a strong and weak possessive pronoun. This means that are you ever showing an ownership relationship between an “it” and another noun; you will use “its.”

It is worth noting that weak or adjective form is usually more common with “its.” Having an understanding of possessive pronouns, in general, can help you remember when to use its, but if you can not do that, you can simply learn what “it’s” means (explained below) and know that “its” is the other one.

Its in a Sentence

Strong:

  • That pen cap is its.
  • That toy is its.
  • The picture is its.
  • That blanket is its.

Weak:

  • That is its pen cap.
  • That is its toy.
  • That is its picture.
  • That is its blanket.

It’s

Usually, adding an apostrophe and an s makes something possessive, if that is not the case for pronouns, what does “it’s” mean?

All About Contraction

A contraction is a shortened version of a word or a group of words (usually not more than two words.) Contractions are used to make writing or speaking shorter and are typically only used in conversational and informal settings. There are lots of common contractions that people use, even if they do not know what the word, contraction means. Below is a list of some of the most common contractions in the English language:

  • Don’t = do and not
  • I’m = I and am
  • Can’t = can and not
  • I’ve = I and have
  • Didn’t = did and not
  • Isn’t = is and not
  • We’re = we and are
  • Aren’t = are and not
  • Let’s = let and us
  • He’ll = he and will

Just like all of those words, it’s is a contraction. The two words combine into the word it’s is it and is, so therefore, the word means it is. It can also be a contraction between the words it and has, in that case, the word means it has. The problem many people have with these two words is not that they use its as a contraction, but rather they use it’s to show possession, which results in sentences like “that is it is pen cap,” which, of course, does not make any sense.

A good way to make sure you are using the right one is whenever you type the contraction, say the full words if it does not make sense, you probably used the wrong one and need to make a correction.

A similar contraction is used with other words such as he or where.

  • He’s = he is
  • Where’s = where is
  • She’s = she is
  • Who’s = who is
  • What’s = what is
  • and many more

It’s in a Sentence

It is:

  • It’s a bad day because it is raining non-stop.
  • It’s a good thing you got to work on time.
  • It’s important that you listen to your teacher.
  • It’s its treats.
  • It’s time to go home now.

It has:

  • It’s been a bad day because it was raining non-stop.
  • It’s been a good thing when you have gotten to work on time.
  • It’s been important that you listen to your teacher.
  • It’s been its blanket before.
  • It’s been time to go home for a while.

As you can see, “its” and “it’s” are extremely different despite the fact that they look very similar. For that reason, when you are writing, it is essential that you use the correct version, or else any readers will get extremely confused. At first, you may have to double-check your writing for “its” and “it’s” mix-ups a lot, but with time and practice, the correct one will come to mind without much conscious effort. Additionally, the good news is, if you manage to get one of them down, you will know to simply use the other when the first does not fit.

Hopefully, you now understand a little better the differences of its vs it’s and when to use each one appropriately.

Sources

Brian Jackson

Co-founder at forgemedia. Content crafter and entrepreneur obsessed with SEO, marketing, and web performance. Connect with me on Twitter.

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