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Its or It’s? When to use which? The incorrect use of these two words is a common grammar mistake, but it’s a mistake that can be easily rectified with a little explanation.

Most of us know that when you form a contraction an apostrophe is used. In the case of it and is or it and has, we form the word it’s, with the apostrophe taking the place of the removed letters.

Most of us also know that when you express possession, you add an apostrophe or an apostrophe+s to the end of a noun. “The bowl of the dog” becomes “The dog’s bowl,” or if you have multiple dogs and a single bowl, “The bowl of the dogs” becomes “The dogs’ bowl.”* With this structure, the possessive form of it should be it’s, but that’s actually not correct. In the case of it, no apostrophe is used. “The thing of it,” is really, “Its thing.”


[spacer]The reason is that its is actually a possessive adjective, not a possessive noun. Just like his, hers, yours, ours, and theirs, no apostrophe is used to show possession. We’ll go over what possessive adjectives are in a later post, but just for a little information, possessive adjectives are what lets us say, “John tied his shoes,” instead of “John tied John’s shoes.”

Aside from creating some random mnemonic device, the only real way to remember the correct possessive form of it is memorization. If you have a system or mnemonic device to help you remember, let us know in the comments below.

I hope this post helped clarify the correct use of its and it’s, but if you have any questions or suggestions on how we could improve, let us know in the comments or reach out to us any time.

*Some argue that an apostrophe+s should always be used when expressing possession. While either form is acceptable, we’ll go over the details in a later post.

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