Difference Between Its and It’s

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 28, 2023

       

Difference Between Its and It’s

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Introduction

It is commonly observed that people often get confused between “It’s” and “Its”; this is because both sound the same.  Their pronunciation may be similar but they have different meanings and cannot be used interchangeably. “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”. For example, It’s (it is) a sunny day.  Whereas, “Its” is a possessive pronoun and can also be used as a possessive adjective. A possessive pronoun is used to indicate possession or belonging. For example, The dog is eating its food. A possessive adjective is an adjective that precedes a noun and shows who or what has ownership of that noun. For example, The house is abandoned. Its windows are broken.

Its vs. It’s

The difference between “its” and “it’s” is that the second “it’s” has an apostrophe between the letters t and s. “It’s” is used as a shortcut for it is or it has.  Hence, “It’s a good day.” is a contraction of “It is a good day.”. Similarly, “It’s been a great night” is a contraction of “It has been a great night.”

“Its” without an apostrophe is used to signify possession or ownership and thus is used before nouns to show something belongs to something. For example, “The chair is unusable because one of its legs broke.”

Difference Between Its and it’s in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonItsIt’s
DefinitionThe butterfly lost its wings. The cat followed its owner.It’s is a contraction or shortcut for it is or it has.
UsageThe use of “its” can be made in any form of writing.The use of “it’s” is usually restricted to informal writing and cannot be used in academic writing.
Replaceability“Its” is not replaceable by any other term.“It’s” is replaceable by “it is” or “it has”
ExamplesIt’s a great day to go for a picnic. It’s an impossible case to solve.It’s a great day to go for a picnic.It’s an impossible case to solve.

The Reason for Confusion between Its and It’s

People often use it’s and its interchangeably or use them in the incorrect context. Since their spelling is identical and they’re pronounced in the same manner, it is quite easy to get them mixed up. A wrongly placed apostrophe can change the entire meaning of the words.

While studying English we have been taught about possessive apostrophe that is used to indicate possession of something. For example, “This is my sister’s doll.” Here the ‘s is used to signify the doll is owned by the sister. So, while using its or it’s, people think “it’s” signifies possession but in reality, it is just a contraction of “it is” or ‘it has”, and hence it leads to incorrect usage of its or it’s.

A wrongly placed apostrophe can lead to the whole sentence being incorrect.

“The toys are kept in it’s box.”

Here “it’s” is used incorrectly. Since “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has” when we replace it with “it is” or “it has” the sentence becomes “The toys are kept in it is box.” Or “The toys are kept in it has box.” Both sentences are incorrect. Thus, from this, it becomes clear how a single apostrophe can change the whole meaning of a word.

History of Its and it’s

Years back, English like many other languages, had genders assigned for each noun i.e. feminine, masculine, or neuter. The pronoun’s gender was decided based on the gender of the noun it was referring to. Despite there being a neuter pronoun “it” in the English language, “his” was used as the possessive pronoun for neuter nouns. Thus, in the first eighteen lines of the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, we have the lines “When that April, with his shoures soote” which translates to “When April with his showers sweet”. Here “his” has been used as a possessive pronoun for a neuter noun which is April.

However, English began to assign “his” and “her” possessive pronouns only to actual masculine or feminine nouns. The usage of “his” for objects started coming off as wrong, and “it” without an “s” began to be used instead.

The usage of “it’s” as a possessive pronoun was found around 1600 and it had an apostrophe just like a possessive noun did. The possessive form of it with an apostrophe that is, “it’s” was widely used throughout the 17th century.

In the 18th century, it was seen that “it’s” with an apostrophe was now being used to replace the contraction of “‘tis” and thus, the possessive form of “it” now dropped the apostrophe and became “its” as we know it today.

Usage and Examples of Its and It’s

When Do We Use It’s?

It is quite simple to remember when to use it’s. Just remember that it’s is a contraction of it is or it has and just like any other contraction it has an apostrophe. The contraction of they are is “they’re” which has an apostrophe in it; similarly, the contraction of it is “it’s”.

Let’s understand this with the help of a few examples:

It’s so tough being a single mother. It’s been very difficult to keep up with work and kids at the same time.

In the example above, the first sentence uses a contraction of it is. The first sentence can also be rewritten as “It is tough being a single mother.”, and it would remain correct. Similarly, it’s in the second sentence is a contraction of it has. The second sentence can be rewritten as “It has been very difficult to keep up with work and kids at the same time.” and remain correct.

Thus, it is worth noting that it’s can be replaced with either it is, or it has, and the sentence’s meaning would remain unchanged.

Here are a few more examples:

  • It’s her birthday today.
  • It’s been a long day.
  • It’s my pleasure.
  • It’s been two years since I last met you.
  • It’s rude to interrupt while someone is talking.
  • It’s been so nice talking to you.
  • It’s a gift from me to your mother.
  • It’s been very lonely ever since I moved cities.
  • It’s a good night to go out partying.
  • It’s been lovely knowing you.

 When Do We Use Its?

“Its” without the apostrophe is the possessive form of the pronoun “it”. It is important to remember that in this “its” we do not use an apostrophe to show possession. “Its” is used before a noun to show to whom or what it belongs.

Let’s understand this with the help of the following example:

“The old public school has been demolished, and now in its place stands a mall.” In this sentence, “its” shows the possession of the place that the public school once had. If we used “it’s” instead of “its” then the meaning of the sentence would change since dropping “it is” or “ it has” in the sentence would not make sense. Let’s try it: “The old public school has been demolished, and now in it is place stands a mall.” “The old public school has been demolished, and now in it has place stands a mall.” In both cases, the sentence does not make sense. Hence using an apostrophe in “its” would change its meaning.

Here are a few more examples:

  • The dog misses its previous owners.
  • The handbag is missing its zip.
  • The village was destroyed by its residents.
  • The Sharma family is famous for its business.
  • The pen dried up because its cap was lost.
  • The cat sleeps peacefully in its bed.
  • The car needs its tires changed.
  • India is known for its diversity.
  • The door does not close because its lock is broken.
  • The bear returned to its natural habitat.

Main Differences Between Its and It’s (In Points)

  • “Its” is a possessive determiner that shows belonging or possession of something, whereas “It’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”.
  • The use of “its” is permissible in any form of writing, whereas usage of “it’s” is limited to informal writing only and is not allowed in academic writing since, in professional writing, it is advisable not to use contractions as it lessens the impact of the words and also comes across as informal.
  • “Its” cannot be directly replaced by any other term. On the other hand, since “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” or “it has”, it can be replaced by either of them to be written in a non-contracted way.
  • When we want to show belonging or ownership, we use “its” without an apostrophe. Whereas, in places where we are replacing “it is” or “it has” with a shorter version of itself, we use “it’s” with an apostrophe between the letters t and s.

Conclusion

 In short, “its” is a possessive form of “it” and it is used to show possession of something. It appears before a noun and indicates to what or to whom that noun belongs. “its” is always used without an apostrophe and placing an apostrophe here would change the entire meaning of the word. When we place an apostrophe between the letters t and s, it becomes “it’s” which is a shortcut or contraction of “it is” or “it has”. “It’s” is used when it is being used to replace either “it is” or “it has”.

To solve the confusion of whether to use an apostrophe or not, remembering a simple tip would help, which is, if the “it’s” in the sentence can be replaced with either “it is” or “it has” then the use of the apostrophe is correct. If the meaning of the sentence becomes incorrect by replacing it with “it is” or “it has” then the sentence requires the usage of “its” that is without the apostrophe.

References

  • https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/the-tangled-history-of-its-and-its
  • https://www.dictionary.com/e/its-vs-its/

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"Difference Between Its and It’s." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 23 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-its-and-it-s-1158>.



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