Its vs It’s

It's vs its
It’s good for each color to have its own shelf.
Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Mixed up English

These two English words are very often used incorrectly by native speakers. It’s important that you understand the difference.


It’s is a contraction of it is or it has.

It’s time to go.

Do you think it’s ready?

I read your article – it’s very good.

Do you know where my purse is? It’s on the table.

It’s been a long time.


Its is the possessive form of it.

That’s an interesting device – what is its purpose?

I saw Les Misérables during its initial run.

This stove has its own timer.

The bird lost some of its feathers.

Where is its head office?

The Bottom Line

The confusion between it’s and its occurs because with virtually every other word, ‘s indicates possession. Consequently, English speakers naturally want to use it’s to mean "something belonging to it." But it’s is only used when it’s a contraction of it is or it has.

The ironclad rule – no exceptions – is that if you can replace the word with it is or it has, use it’s. Otherwise, it’s always its.

Related difficulties

 Share / Tweet / Pin Me!

Its vs it's

12 Responses

  1. Just Trixie 6 March 2014 / 10:47

    Thanks for this. I do know these grammar rules, they were pounded into my head by countless English teachers, but those dang automatic proofreaders in Word and other places around the web always make me question myself. Ack!! Maybe you should send invites to read this post to all those software developers out there who write proofreaders. LOL. Have a great day.

  2. Thomas Banacek 11 March 2014 / 18:57

    I think it would be far easier to just change the language. This rule is as stupid as they come. Every other possessive or contraction is apostrophe. As in:

    Bob’s going to the store.
    This is Fred’s bologna sandwich.

    But, oh know, for it, let’s make it really confusing and non-standard.

    This is what makes English such a stupid language. There’s no logic to so much of it. It just seems like “Oh, hey, let’s do this instead, because, well, why not!”.

  3. J-P 15 March 2014 / 15:35

    It would not be easier to change the language Thomas. If you did, you would have to change all of the other similar contractions such as:

    wouldn’t, hasn’t, isn’t, oughtn’t etcetera.

    English can be described as a composite language, which is part of its beauty and enables it to be incredibly versatile as well as subtle. The suggestion that it should be changed for such a tiny thing is pointedly absurd.

  4. Won 1 May 2014 / 13:47

    While I do believe that changing the English language isn’t all that practical, I don’t believe Thomas was suggesting that we change the rules for contractions. I believe that he was implying that we should consider changing the rule for the possessive form of the word “it” to include the apostraphe. This would make it conform to the convention we use for other possessive forms.

    It’s (pun intended) a change to a specific use of specific word, not changing the entire convention.

    Just my 1.5 cents.

  5. Elisabeth 28 May 2014 / 13:11

    Hey, I was reminded on another grammar site that other possessive personal pronouns (hers, theirs, yours, ours, etc.) don’t use the apostrophe and while maybe “it’s” was used as a contraction AND a possessive pronoun hundreds of years ago, the apostrophe was dropped to mirror their usage. I’d rather have to remember “its” is possessive than have to start writing “her’s, their’s, your’s, our’s, etc.! 🙂

    Learning any language is a challenge – especially since usage changes – and that’s one of the things that makes language skills impressive, I think.

  6. Gorge Bush 24 July 2014 / 00:23

    But, why is this wrong, as it’s following all the above rules, it’s really?:
    “Is that how long it’s?”

  7. lkl 1 August 2014 / 08:13

    You can’t use a contraction like “it’s” at the end of a sentence because it seems like there’s no verb, since “is” is shortened to just ‘s. But you can use “can’t” at the end of a sentence because the verb is still whole: can.

  8. P 28 November 2014 / 16:17

    It has? Give me an example. My understanding is that the ‘s with possessives is actually a contraction of has, so Dan’s is a contraction of “Dan has”. This doesn’t work with it’s, that is the whole point.

  9. lkl 28 November 2014 / 16:40

    It’s been a long time.

  10. Britannia 28 December 2014 / 16:43

    I’m curious to hear what new rule you think should be instated in this one’s place, as contractions such as don’t (do not) and can’t (can not) are also punctuated by apostrophes and there has to be something to differentiate between the possessive and the contraction.

  11. bugrit 25 January 2015 / 17:28

    Whose is this black sombrero?
    It’s Cousin It’s, isn’t it, It?

  12. Larry 29 June 2018 / 18:39

    Here’s a good one in the” its vs. it’s” debate:

    1978 TV commercial for Paul Maisson wine, narrated by Orson Wells. He states the slogan for the wine is:

    “We will sell no wine before its time”. Correct usage of possessive pronoun! BUT…

    if you use the contraction, it still is grammatically correct:

    “We will sell no wine before it’s time” (We will sell no wine before it is time)

Comments are closed.