Its or It’s | Difference & Example Sentences

Though they’re pronounced the same, there’s a big difference in meaning between its and it’s.

  • Its (without an apostrophe) is the possessive form of it, so it means ‘belonging to it’.
  • It’s (with an apostrophe) is a contraction (shortened form) of it is or it has.
  • Its’ (apostrophe after the ‘s’) is not actually a word, even though people sometimes mistakenly use it in place of its.
Examples: ‘Its’ in a sentence Examples: ‘It’s’ in a sentence
The dog chased its tail. It’s almost two o’clock.
The article contradicted its own argument. It’s best to do some research before deciding on a topic.

Its: Possessive pronoun

Its is a possessive pronoun, like ‘his’ or ‘hers’. While possession is usually indicated by adding ’s to the end of the word, personal pronouns don’t use an apostrophe in the possessive form: I/my, he/his, she/her, it/its.

Be extra careful when typing ‘its’. Spell checkers will sometimes mistake your meaning and insert an apostrophe where none is needed, so make sure to check yourself.

Examples: Possessive pronoun ‘its’
The house used to be nice, but it lost its charm when it was renovated.

It’s: Contraction

It’s can be used as a contraction of it is or it has. It’s never used in place of it was, though.

Example: ‘It is’ or ‘it has’
It’s (it is) about quality, not quantity.

It’s (it has) been two months since I applied for the research grant.

Although contractions are fine in informal writing, you should avoid contractions in formal or academic writing. So you’ll never write it’s in an academic text.

Tip
If you’re unsure whether you’re using it’s correctly, replace it with it is or it has:

  • If the sentence makes sense with one of these substitutions, then it’s is the correct word to use.
  • If not, you probably mean its.

Worksheet: Its vs it’s

Want to test your knowledge of the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’? Download our practice worksheet with the buttons below. Fill in either ‘its’ or ‘it’s’ in the gaps in the sentences.

  1. The guitar is useless without ______ strings.
  2. ______ important to cite your sources.
  3. ______ been more than two hundred years since the Boston Tea Party.
  4. She started to feel better as the medicine did ______ work.
  5. ______ not a stray dog. I can see ______ collar.
  1. The guitar is useless without its strings.
    • Its is the possessive form of it. When you use its, you refer to something belonging to the third-person singular neuter it (here meaning the guitar).
  1. It’s important to cite your sources.
    • It’s can be used as a contraction of it is or it has. In this instance, it’s is a contraction of it is.
  1. It’s been more than 200 years since the Boston Tea Party.
    • In this instance, it’s is a contraction of it has.
  1. She started to feel better as the medicine did its work.
    • Here, the possessive pronoun its refers back to the medicine.
  1. It’s not a stray dog. I can see its collar.
    • Here, both it’s and its are used. It’s here means it is. The possessive pronoun its refers to the earlier noun (dog).

 

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Eoghan Ryan

Eoghan has a lot of experience with theses and dissertations at bachelor's, MA, and PhD level. He has taught university English courses, helping students to improve their research and writing.

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