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Grammar Is Sexy

Its vs. It’s: Never Forget The Difference Again

In creating Grammar Is Sexy, I asked various English teachers and professors the following question: What grammar or writing mistakes do you see students make the most?

One of the most common answers was that students confused “Its” with “It’s,” writing one when they meant the other. I see this mistake all the time when proofreading papers for people. It’s an easy mistake to make, since the rules for English punctuation are quite confusing.

Today, however, I’m going to clear up this matter once and for all. After reading this post, you’ll never forget the difference between “Its” and “It’s” again.

The Basics

Before I get into examples, here’s a brief explanation of the difference between “Its” and “It’s.”

“Its” is the possessive form of the pronoun “it.” All that means is that if you add an “s” to “it,” you show that it owns/has/possesses something or someone.

“It’s,” in contrast, is the contracted (which just means shortened) form of “It is.” We use contractions all the time; they make speech easier and more fluid. Common contractions include the following:

  • isn’t (short for “is not”)
  • won’t (short for “will not”)
  • can’t (short for “cannot”)
  • she’s (short for “she is”)
  • he’s (short for “he is”)
  • they’re (short for “they are”)

Seems simple enough, right?

The confusion comes because of the way we normally form possessives in English. For instance, if the duck belonged to Marvin, you would say it was “Marvin’s duck,” adding an apostrophe + “s” to “Marvin.”

With pronouns, however, we form possessives differently. The pronouns “he,” “she,” and “they,” and “we” all become new words to show possession, becoming “his,” “her,” “their,” and “our.”

The same is true with “it”–to show possession, “it” becomes “its.” This wouldn’t be a problem, except that “its” is similar in spelling and identical in sound to “it’s.” Thus, people frequently write “its” when they mean “it’s.”

Never Forget The Difference Again

So how do you remember when to write “it’s” or “its?” All you have to remember is the following very short story

“It” is a very possessive boyfriend. He wouldn’t let “S” even speak to Apostrophe.

It is possessive

Poor Apostrophe!

So when you write “its” with no apostrophe, you’re using the possessive form.

Eventually, “It” (being quite flaky) broke up with “S.” “It” then reconciled with Apostrophe and even asked him to perform his wedding. Thus, Apostrophe joined “It” and “Is” in Holy Contraction.

It and Is Get Married

A happy ending (sort of).

So when you write “It’s” with an apostrophe, you’re using a shortened (contracted) form of “It is.”

I hope I’ve cleared this matter up for you. It’s still an easy mistake to make, particularly when typing, so always make sure to proofread.

Any questions? Suggestions? Please let me know in the comments.

Thank you for reading.

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