Its vs. it’s – what is the difference between the two?

We have all been there. Seriously. You are neither the first nor the last person to confuse its and it’s. In fact, this is one of the most common mistakes made by the users of English. Does really a small apostrophe make so much difference? It’s (its?) the question that will be answered.

Its day it's? Which form is correct meaning difference definition correct form examples

Its vs. it’s – what are they?

Its is a possessive determiner. It’s is a contraction: a shorter form of the words ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. The pair looks similar and is pronounced in the same way, hence its and it’s are so often confused. The difference lies in meaning and the presence of the apostrophe.

Its vs. it’s. When it’s correct to use its

The neuter pronoun ‘it’ is used to designate an inanimate thing, place, idea, animal, etc., and its is a possessive form of ‘it’. In other words, we use its to indicate that something belongs to ‘it’. For example:

Its vs. it’s. When it’s incorrect to use its

As we said, it’s is an informal and common way of contracting two phrases: ‘it is’ and ‘it has’, e.g.:

What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.

Neil Gaiman, American Gods, 2001

Are you still unsure whether you use your itses correctly? It’s your lucky day, we will give you a simple life-hack. Write your sentence and think whether you can easily replace your it’s with ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. If the sentence still makes sense, you are on the safe side. If not, just get rid of the apostrophe. And remember:

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. There comes a time in everything when you don’t know something.

Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One, 1989

Written by

Passionately in love with English — a romance initiated by reading Tolkien’s books that finally lead her too far, and now she is an English philology graduate. She loves learning, especially when it comes to languages. Interested in visual arts, history and DIY.