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Time to explain another tricky difference: its and it’s. Well, we got to take in our staple of differences, haven’t we?

The Basics:

It’s is short for it is or it has.

This is an absolute rule. It’s cannot be used for anything else. So all you got to do is expand it’s and if the expansion does not sound right, you have nailed a case of wrong usage.

Its is a possessive pronoun meaning, more or less, of it or belonging to it. So in simple terms, its acts like like his and her. The usage of the threesome is explained as follows:

  • His is used for masculine things. (These are his chess pieces.)
  • Her is used for feminine things. (These are her nail-paints.)
  • Its is used for neuter things. (These are its feathers.)

Root of the problem:

The root of the it’s vs. its debate does have a rather confusing origin.

Apostrophes are used to show possession in face. For example, the possessive form of cat is cat’s (as in the cat’s hair are falling). This leads to some amount of confusion in the usage of it as some claim that the possessive form of it should be it’s. Well, it does fit the pattern of forming possessive forms of nuns but then don’t lead this bog you down.

We have one and only one rule for the usage of it’s and its:

  • It’s is short for it is or it has.
  • Its is the possessive form of it.

Keep nothing else in your systems!

Practice Exercise: Check whether the usage of ‘it’s/its’ is appropriate in the given sentences.

1. It’s been raining for a week, and now it’s starting to snow.
2. It’s one of the hardest courses in it’s history.
3. I think the company wants to have its cake and eat it.
4. The reef shark chases it’s prey through the coral.
5. I’m astounded by people who want to ‘know’ the universe when it’s so hard to find your way around

[toggle title=”Answers for the Exercise (click to expand)”] 1. It has been raining….it is starting to snow
2. The first it’s is correct. The second should be its.
3. its – possessive form. This is correct.
4. should be its, i.e., the possessive form. You cannot expand this to it is or it has.)
5. Correct usage of it’s. [/toggle]


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