BlogGrammar RulesIt’s vs. Its: Let’s Get It Straight

It’s vs. Its: Let’s Get It Straight

The ProWritingAid Team

The ProWritingAid Team

ProWritingAid: A grammar guru, style editor, and writing mentor in one package.

Published Mar 06, 2018

When to use it's and its

Contractions. Possessives. When do you use an apostrophe?

During a productive writing session, when you’re in the flow, some people throw "it’s" in place of both a contraction and the possessive form. Another reason you should use ProWritingAid to check your work before you send it off to your editor or a client.

Follow these rules and self-edit with confidence.

  1. When to use it’s
  2. When to use its
  3. Expert tip

When to use it’s

Only use an apostrophe to form a contraction, bringing together the words "it is" or "it has." Similar to other pronoun + verb contractions, like he’s, she’s or they’ve, you use an apostrophe to show a missing letter.

Consider these examples:

  • It’s raining harder than ever.
  • She believes it’s time to make a change.
  • The store opened at 9 a.m. and since then, it’s been busy.
  • The yellow ribbon leaves little doubt it’s a spring outfit.

Notice the above examples are all short for either "it is" or "it has."

Now let’s look at the possessive form of "it."

When to use its

How many times have you dashed off a response to a tweet or text and written "it’s" to show possession? It happens to the best of us, but it’s still embarrassing. Pronouns never show possession with an apostrophe. Here are a few examples showing the difference.

  • In its place is a large sign that reads "Out of Order."
  • The writers’ group consistently shows that imagination is one of its core strengths.
  • The rest of its contents includes first aid supplies.
  • The memo left little doubt that its directive was mandatory.

This usage is similar to the other possessive pronouns such as his, her or their.

Expert tip

When editing, if you can replace it’s with either "it is" or "it has" in the sentence, then you use an apostrophe. Otherwise, no apostrophe. Easy peasy, right? Better yet, run it through ProWritingAid and let the powerful algorithm do it for you.

Drop us a note in the comments below with what other possessive or contractions like it’s throw you off.

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The ProWritingAid Team

The ProWritingAid Team

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