It’s or its? It’s easy.

Posted: April 24, 2013 in Grammar nazi, Miscellaneous, Words, Writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

In the last few weeks of internet reading, I’ve come across a three-letter mistake that seems to be everywhere.

Do you use “its” or “it’s”?  The Grammar nazi wants to help out with a simple explanation.

grammar nazi

The rules are simple.  “It’s” is short (that’s what the apostrophe means, that a letter or letters are missing) for “It is.”  So if you can substitute “it is” for your “it’s”, you’re good.

“Its” seems to be the tricky one.  “Its” is a possessive—“The deer raised its head.”  Whose head?  The deer’s head.  And there, I think, is the problem.  We all know that “the deer’s head”, “Mom’s cooking”, “the dog’s tail”, all need apostrophes.  Not “its.”

Remember “its” with “his”, “her” and “theirs”, also possessives that don’t have apostrophes.  If you can put in “his” or “her” for “its”, you have the right one.  For instance, “The deer raised its head” could also be “The deer raised his head”; hence, “its” is correct. 

A quick quiz. 

  • Which “its” needs an apostrophe?  “Its time for the dog to get its medicine.”

If you said the first one needs the apostrophe, you’re correct.

Remember, if you can substitute “it is”, you need “it’s.”

  • Does this need an apostrophe or not?  “The sun moves through its orbit during the daytime.”

Correct as is.

See?  It’s not as difficult as you thought.

  1. billgncs says:

    its always good to know…. 🙂

  2. paulmclem says:

    Weird. I was actually thinking about its and it’s today. It’s not a difficult one to get right but the amount of time you see it’s instead of its is incredible!

    • That’s what drove me to this post, Paul (although it wasn’t supposed to go out until tomorrow morning but I hit “Publish” instead of “Preview”.) It’s simple and hopefully my little post might help a person or two get it right.


  3. paulscribbles says:

    It’s nice to know that this blog has its grammar in order 😉

  4. annesquared says:

    I pick “D”. “D” I say!! Thank you! I was charged $ for improper grammar as a child, yet I never learned how to diagram a sentence (dang Montessori school.) I enjoyed the post!! 🙂

    Please consider the “if/wish” use with “was/were”… a bit more complex. There is a raging debate at work…way beyond my level of (no) expertise.

  5. Dear Janet,
    So glad you gave the word it’s own blog post. Its going to be a good day after all. Ha! You’re too far away to throw heavy objects at me. Nyah, nyah, nyah.

  6. Nice and concise … and I think I’m all set now. I tend to pause on this “its” as in “its head” but this makes sense. Thanks!

  7. mariadesuede says:

    Well I don’t care because I don’t need to speak English in my life. And the problem is that Americans doesn’t speak like English, Australian has their accent and others expressions… And you the English speaker will never understand each other without confusions… But English is a mix of Scandinavian, german and latins languages…

    • You’re right that there are many differences among the English-speaking people and there can be difficulties in understanding. When you’re only speaking English, the difference between “its” and “it’s” doesn’t matter, as they both sound the same. But in writing, it does make a difference and all those who write English would need to know the difference.

      Thanks for stopping by and for your comments.