Skip to content

Grammarflex

Grammarflex logo

When to Use “It’s” or “Its”? (Explanation, with Examples)

'It's' or 'Its'



How to use “it’s” and “its”

It’s a wise dog that scratches its own fleas. And, it’s a discerning individual that can tell apart “it’s” as a contraction from “its” as a possessive.



Meaning of ‘its’ and ‘it’s’

  • It’s with an apostrophe (‘s) is a contraction of it + is or it + has.


  • Its without an apostrophe is a possessive pronoun in the third-person.


examples with ‘it’s’ example with ‘its’
It looks like it’s going to rain.April with its sweet flowers.



“It’s” as a contraction

The apostrophe in ‘it’s’ signals a contraction (not a possessive, though apostrophe s can be used to create a possessive, ironically).


Contractions are words that have been shortened by an apostrophe and omitting certain letters or vowels.


  • isn’t = is + not
  • doesn’t = doest + not
  • would’ve = would + have
  • could’ve = could + have


It’s combines the third-person pronoun it with either the verb is or has.


It’s (it + is)It’s (it + has)
Finally-it’s here!It’s been so long since we last saw each other!



“Its” as a possessive pronoun

Its (no apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun in the third-person (plural or singular). We use possessives to show something as associated with or belonging to what was previously referenced.


  • The government encourages its citizens to vote during elections.
  • This is my cookie pile, and that one is yours.
  • Whose gift do you like better, mine or hers?


Hers, his, its, and theirs are third-person possessive pronouns, and can be either singular or plural, and used as sentence subjects or objects.


Herself, himself, itself, themself, and themselves are third-person reflexive and intensive pronouns.



A tip to learn when to use its vs. it’s

If you can replace it (literally!) in the sentence with ‘it is’ or ‘it has’, use it’s with an apostrophe. Otherwise, it’s ‘its’ without the apostrophe.


How many times can you use ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ in the same sentence and still have it make sense? You tell me!



The contraction, ‘it’s’, used in sentences

Sentences using ‘it’s’ (contraction)
Don’t worry; it’s easy to get these things confused.

In our house, it’s okay to sit by the fire and read a book all night.

She said it’s only a fifteen-minute drive.



Possessive pronoun, ‘its’, used in sentences

Examples using ‘its’ (possessive)
The cat is too big for its carrier.

This cheese is past its expiration date.

The company is proud of its achievements.



Read about commonly confused words



Sources

  1. The Elements of Style, Struck & White.
  2. Dictionary.com on third-person possessive pronouns.


Recent Posts

Assent, ascent or accent?

Assent or Ascent (or Accent?)

When to use assent, ascent and accent The differences between assent, ascent and accent: Assent may be a noun or a verb: the former refers

Device or devise?

Devise or Device? (Meaning, Usage)

What’s the difference between device and devise? Devise is a verb meaning “to invent or plan”. Device is a noun that refers to “an object

Paid or payed?

Is “Paid” or “Payed” Correct?

What is the correct past tense of “pay”? The verb pay, which describes giving money to someone for something you want to buy or for

Amiable or amicable?

When to Use Amiable or Amicable?

Are amiable and amicable the same? Both amiable and amicable are describing words (i.e., adjectives); the difference mostly concerns what it is that they describe:

Is it creeped or crept?

What’s the Past Tense of Creep?

Is it creeped or crept? If you’re trying to say that you’re creeped out by something, use creeped. Otherwise, both creeped and crept are accepted