Grammar 6 min read

When to use Its vs. It's: How to Avoid Looking bad

Main Its vs. It’s Takeaways:

  • Its is the possessive pronoun for it, as in “the door blew open on its own.”
  • It’s is a contraction meaning it is, as in “it’s raining cats and dogs.”
  • Its’ is not a word.

Sometimes, even seasoned writers use its and it’s incorrectly because the words sound the same. They look almost identical and sounds the same, but they’re not. Here’s are a few easy tips to make sure you always choose the correct word.

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What is the Rule for Its?

On one hand, its signifies ownership or possession. It is not a contraction and as a result, does not have an apostrophe.On the other hand, it’s always takes the place of it is. It is a contraction, which is why it has an apostrophe.

Use its when expressing possession. Conversely, use it’s when you want to say it is. The words are not interchangeable.

Here are 3 easy tricks to help you decide whether to use its vs. it’s:

Trick #1: Replace with “it is”

Try replacing the word with the phrase it is in your sentence. If you sentence still make sense, then you know it’s is the correct option.

It is a hot, sunny day.
It’s a hot, sunny day.
Its a hot, sunny day.

However, if you can’t substitute it is, then you should use its.

A pink square character holds an ice cream that's melting. He looks upset and has the text
“Its” is a possessive pronoun, while “it’s” is a contraction of the phrase “it is.”

Trick #2: Look for a Determiner

Is the word is followed by a determiner like “a,” “an,” “the,” “this,” or “that”? What about a pronoun like “my,” “hers,” “ours,” or “theirs?” Or, maybe even a quantity like “a few” or number like “three?”

If so, then it’s is the correct option.

The pizza is on its way, but it’s a few minutes late.
The pizza is on it’s way, but its a few minutes late.

In the example above:

  • it refers to the pizza.
  • its posses way
  • it’s is a contraction of it is and is followed by the determiner a few.

Possessive pronouns always need a direct object. For example, the pronoun is the owner and the direct object is what they possess or own. Usually, the point of this construction is to show ownership of something specific.

Its is a possessive pronoun. For this reason, it’s not usually followed by a determiner.

Trick #3: Look for a Noun That Comes Before

Is there a noun like pizza before the word?

If the answer is “yes,” then you probably want to go with the possessive pronoun its. This is because it is most likely substituting the noun at the beginning of the sentence to avoid repetition.

There are 3 pink square characters help illustrate the difference between it's with an apostrophe and its without. The one on the far left is labeled it's with an apostrophe and has a broken heart above his head. The one of the far right is labeled its, looks angry and is possessively holding onto the middle character.
“It’s” and “its” can’t be used interchangeably in a sentence. If you’re expressing possession, you should go with “its.”

If you can replace the word with the same noun at the beginning of the sentence, then its is the correct choice.

The pizza is on the pizza’s way.
The pizza is on its way.

We can double check its is the correct choice with Trick #1, or substituting the word with the phrase it is:

The pizza is on its way.
The pizza is on it is way.

When we replace the word with it is, the sentence no longer makes sense. Therefore, we know that its is the correct option here.

How do you use its and it’s in a Sentence?

Jose started the car after unlocking its doors.
She turned the onion on its side before grabbing her knife.
The door was jammed, so Landon broke its lock to get inside.
It’s cold outside, so wear your jacket.
Actually, it’s pretty easy to figure out how to use contractions.
“Yeah, I’ll try it,” Kathy responded when the waiter asked if she’d like a sample of pecan pie.
I don’t like when it gets hot in Chicago.
A pink square character holds two signs that explain that
“Its” is the possessive pronoun for “it,” while “it’s”is a contraction for “it is.”
It looks good,” Tyler’s mom said when she saw his clean room.

It’s is a contraction that combines this pronoun with the verb is. Is expresses a state of being.

It’s too windy today,” complained Cynthia.
I’m not sure it’s a good idea for you to do that.
It’s another exciting day at the office.

It’s is not the plural or possessive form of it. Writers should use its when they need a possessive pronoun.

It’s a fun event.
The bug flapped it’s wings.

Recap: What’s the Difference Between It and It’s?

Its is the possessive pronoun for it, which describes an object, person, or other entity.

its definition: (pronoun) relating to it or itself; the object, agent or possessor of an action

It’s is a contraction that means “it is.” People often use it’s instead of its because they assume an apostrophe plus ‘s’ always signifies ownership. Remember, many other possessive pronouns omit the apostrophe as well. This is true for my, your, hers, and his.

it’s definition: (contraction) it is

You may have also seen some people write its’ with an apostrophe at the end. This is a grammatical error because its’ is not a word.

It is a third-person singular neuter pronoun. Generally, the word it appears as the subject, indirect object, or direct object of a verb. It can also be the object of a preposition.

It Fact Sheet:

  • It is a pronoun.
  • It usually references an inanimate object, such as a car, book, or beverage.
  • You can also use it to describe a person, animal, or plant.
  • It’s is a contraction for it is.
  • Its is the possessive pronoun.
  • its’ is always incorrect because it is not a word.

Its vs. it’s might be one of the most confusing things in the English Language, but now have everything you need to master of the difference between the two.

Put Your Skills to the Test with This Quick Its vs. It’s Quiz

Its vs. It's Question #1

The words it and it's are interchangeable in a sentence.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is FALSE. “It's” is a contraction for “it is,” while “its” is used to indicate ownership.

It's vs. Its Question #2

Select the possessive pronoun for “it.”
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. We use “its” in a sentence to indicate ownership or possession.

It's Question #3

The word “it's” can indicate possession in a sentence.
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is FALSE. “It's” is a contraction that means “it is.”

It's or Its Question #4

Select the grammatically correct sentence(s).
Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answer is A. You can substitute “it is” in all the sentences except A.

It's and Its Question #5

Select the grammatically correct sentence(s).

Please select 2 correct answers

Correct! Oops! That's incorrect.

The answers are A and D. You can substitute “it's” for “it is” in both A and D.

Read More: Among vs. Amongst: Their Differences and Proper Usage

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Krista Grace Morris

Krista heads up Marketing and Content Creation here at INK. From Linguistics and History to puns and memes, she's interested in the systems we create to share our ideas with each other.

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