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Difference Between: It’s vs. Its

It’s is a short form (contraction) of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. The apostrophe replaces the missing letters. E.g. It’s (it is) cold outside. Its is a possessive pronoun (like ours or hers) for nouns without gender. We never use an apostrophe with a possessive pronoun. E.g. The dog is in its bed. Both words sound the same.

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It’s or its?

Even native speakers often confuse it’s and its. It’s likely this is because these words sound the same. English certainly has its homophones! However, it’s easy to choose the right word if you know the rules. The word it’s has its uses, but these are quite different from those of the word its!

Rule 1: When the meaning is ‘it is’ or ‘it has’, use it’s (with an apostrophe).

Rule 2: Possessive pronouns never have an apostrophe: his, hers, ours, its, theirs, yours, whose. Use its (without an apostrophe) to show possession or ownership.

Examples of mistakes with it’s vs. its:

  • When its snowing its cold outside. (Incorrect)
  • When it’s snowing it’s cold outside. (Correct)

Here the meaning is ‘it is’ so we have to use it’s (with an apostrophe).

  • The dog is playing with it’s (Incorrect)
  • The dog is playing with its (Correct)

Here we are showing that the ball belongs to the dog so we use its (with no apostrophe).

What does it’s mean?

It’s means: ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

It’s is a contraction (short form) of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. When you’re writing a sentence, think about whether you could use ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. If the answer is ‘yes’, then you should use it’s (with an apostrophe). In formal writing, it is best to use the full form and not the contraction.

Examples with it’s in a sentence:

  • If it’s ok with you, let’s reschedule our meeting for next week.
  • It’s going to rain all afternoon so take your umbrella.
  • I’m not sure when it’s going to be sunny again.
  • Are you sure it’s cool for me to borrow your car this weekend?
  • I really love chocolate cake, but it’s bad for my waistline! 
Remember we cannot use it’s at the end of a sentence. Instead, we have to use the full form ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. E.g. Has it stopped raining? Yes, it has. or Is it Friday today? Yes, it is.

What does its mean?

Its means: ‘belonging to it’.

Its is the possessive form of the pronoun ‘it’. This word is in the same category as: mine, yours, ours, hers, his, theirs. When you’re writing a sentence, use its (without an apostrophe) if you’re showing possession, connection or ownership.

Examples with its in a sentence:

  • The film is better than its title might suggest.
  • The car didn’t pass its MOT this year.
  • The hamster is in its cage.
  • Its brakes failed so the bus crashed!
  • This milk is past its sell-by date.
In English, we can use its about a child or an animal when the gender is not specified. In most languages, this is not possible. E.g. The baby was left without its mother. or The cat is in its basket.

Quiz: It’s or its?

Try these exercises to test your understanding of the differences between it’s and its. Watch out for the questions with the word at the end of the sentence and remember the Hot Tip above!

  1. _______ likely I’ll be home late tonight.
    a. It’s
    b. Its
  2. We’ll go for a walk when ______ stopped raining.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  3. The dog is in _______ bed.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  4. _______ a shame you can’t make it to the party this weekend.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  5. _______ tyres were flat so the car couldn’t drive anywhere.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  6. What time is it? ______ six o’clock sharp.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  7. The book is more interesting than ______ cover might suggest.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  8. The baby cried without ______ mother.
    a. it’s
    b. its
  9. Is that John stood over there? Yes, ________.
    a. it’s
    b. its
    c. it is
  10. Has my Amazon parcel arrived yet? Yes, ________.
    a. it’s
    b. its
    c. it has

Answers:

  1. a)
  2. a)
  3. b)
  4. a)
  5. b)
  6. a)
  7. b)
  8. b)
  9. c)
  10. c)
Click here to download this post via our mobile website!
Download: This blog post is available as a convenient and portable PDF that you can take anywhere. Click here to get a copy. (Download)
Alex Jude —
ESL Specialist & CEO at Online Teachers UK.
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