Its vs. It’s: What is the Difference Between Its and It’s?

“Its” and “it’s” are two distinct words with different meanings and different uses. They are oftentimes confused with each other, but, once you realize their differences, they are actually quite easy to keep apart. In this post, we’ll talk about the differences between the two words and how you can tell when to use which one.

When to Use Its

its-vs-its“Its” is the possessive form of the pronoun it. For example,

  • The dog ate its food.
  • The lake is beautiful in its own unique way.

In both of these examples, “its” is acting as a possessive. In the first sentence, the food belongs to the dog. In the second sentence, the beauty is unique to that lake specifically, giving the lake ownership over the beauty.

When to Use It’s

“It’s” is a contraction, standing for “it is” or “it has.” For example,

  • It’s a great day outside.
  • It’s been a long time.

In the first sentence, “it’s” stands for “it is.” It is a great day outside. In the second sentence, “it’s” stands for “it has.” It has been a long time. In both sentences, “it’s” is used as a contraction.

Confusion Between Its vs. It’s

The reason why these words can be confusing is that, generally, to make a word possessive in English you will add an ‘s on the end. For instance,

  • The dog’s food.
  • The lake’s beauty.

This is not the case with “its.” In order to avoid any confusion between the two words, an exception has been made to this general rule. No apostrophe is therefore needed to show possession. For this reason, its’ is also not a word.

Trick to Remember the Difference

There is one easy trick to determine which of these two words to use in a sentence. If you substitute “it is” for either “its” or “it’s” in a sentence, you can easily determine which is correct. For example,

  • It’s a crime to steal from a grocery store.
  • The panda and its mother both ate bamboo.

If we substitute “it is” in both of these sentences we can see which is correct. “It is a crime to steal from a grocery store” still makes complete sense because “it’s” is being used as a contraction here. “The panda and it is mother both ate bamboo” does not make any logical sense because, here, “its” is being used as a possessive.

To summarize,

  • “Its” is a possessive, showing ownership.
  • “It’s” is a contraction, standing for it is.


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