It’s Its Nature to Be Confusing!


I'm so confused!

I’m so con­fused!’ Photo by brain­loc on Stock​.Xchng​.com

For some rea­son, a lot of peo­ple are con­fused about when to use “it’s” (with the apos­tro­phe) and when to use “its” (with­out the apos­tro­phe). One of them is a con­trac­tion, the other a possessive.

If nuances of good writ­ing make you feel some­thing like the fel­low in the pic­ture above, you are not alone! But take heart! I’m about to lend a help­ing hand.

Some­one sug­gested to me that maybe the con­fu­sion comes about because it has been so ingrained in us that pos­ses­sives use apos­tro­phes, so we tend to assume “it’s” is the pos­ses­sive. Well, per­haps. But don’t for­get words like these, which are pos­ses­sives with­out apos­tro­phes: hers, his, yours, ours, mine, theirs. All these words are called pos­ses­sive pro­nouns. And guess what?! So is its! There is no apos­tro­phe in any of them! Look at the fol­low­ing examples:

“Did you take her books or ours?”

“Nei­ther. I took his books. You don’t have yours?”

“I only have one of mine. All I found of my math book was its jacket, so Jim and Lana let me bor­row theirs.”

“Its” is the pos­ses­sive pro­noun replac­ing “the book’s”: “the book’s jacket” = “its jacket.”

But notice the dif­fer­ence here:“It’s time to get to school.” In this sen­tence, “it’s” is called a con­trac­tion because it “con­tracts” or pulls together the two words “it” and “is.” The fol­low­ing con­trac­tions are also famil­iar to you — and note their apos­tro­phes: don’t, won’t, can’t, doesn’t, weren’t, aren’t, and more. Remem­ber­ing these con­trac­tions will, I hope, help you to remem­ber that “it is” also calls for an apos­tro­phe when con­tracted (or, as I like to say, smushed) into “it’s.”

One final point: NEVER EVER is it cor­rect to write its’. Never!!

Was this punc­tu­a­tion tip help­ful? I’d love to be your GPS (that is, gram­mar, punc­tu­a­tion, and spelling) nav­i­ga­tor for other quan­daries you’d like assis­tance with. The first five peo­ple to post ques­tions which are cho­sen as the topic of future posts will each be awarded 15 min­utes of proof­read­ing as a free gift from me (that’s a $5 — $10 value or more, depend­ing on the pro­fes­sional and the type of work needed) as my thanks!

Do you have an ad, a let­ter, a blog post, a resume you’d like proof­read? I look for­ward to your ques­tions and sharing!

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