*This post originally appeared on my previous blog on January 28, 2015
I remember when I learned the difference between “it’s” and “its.” No, really, I remember. I was in first grade, and had used “it’s” instead of “its.” After an explanation from my teacher, I was amazed at how much an apostrophe could change the meaning of a word and sentence. Now, as I peruse social media, read text messages, edit copy, and go through my emails, I realize that not everyone was given, or paid attention to, an explanation of the difference between “it’s” and “its.” Well, here’s your chance.
“It’s” is a easily recognizable as a contraction. I described those in a previous Choice Words blog post, but I will quickly just say if you separate out this contraction, you get “it is.”
“Its” is not the same – it is not a contraction. I cannot stress this enough. I almost always see “yours,” “ours,” and “hers” used correctly – “its” holds the same form as those words: a possessive pronoun. You would not put an apostrophe in those three pronouns, so do not put one in “its.”
If you do find yourself having a lot of trouble deciding which “its” should be used, just reread your sentence! Yes, it’s that simple. Here is an example:
The book was worn because its owner had read it so many times.
The book was worn because it’s owner had read it so many times.
Which sentence is correct? Read them both again, separating out the version with the apostrophe. You will immediately recognize that the first one uses “its” correctly. The book belongs to the owner, so the possessive pronoun – its – needs to be used.
As a side note, never put the apostrophe after the “s” for either “it’s” or “its.” That is incorrect no matter what. Remember, “its” is the same part of speech as “hers,” “ours,” and “yours,” and those words do not need the apostrophe to show possession as they are possessive pronouns.
I hope you find this helpful, and if you have any requests for other explanations, write a suggestion in the comments.