CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between its and it’s

TLDR: Its is reserved for the possessive of ‘it’, whereas it’s is the contraction of ‘it is’.

(Everyone had a nice Easter break? Good. Okay! Let’s get back into it!)

These two are definitely one of the most commonly confused pairs of words in the English language.

I remember, back in primary school (for non-Australians, that’s from the ages of six to twelve), when I first learnt that its was not the same as it’s, I was very confused and got them mixed up for ages. I argued with my teachers, insisting that the possessive should be more important than the contraction and should, therefore, be able to have an apostrophe, or else they should both have the apostrophe! But I was just one voice in the stifling mire that is the English language and, consequently, my crusade ended soon afterwards and I decided to just learn the rule instead of fighting against it.

So here it is in all its confusing glory.

its (possessive)—referring to something belonging to something else

The tree had shed all its leaves by the following week.

The leopard picked up its cub and walked off into the bushes.

it’s (contraction)—it is; it has

It’s… Monty Python’s Flying Circus!

‘Man, it’s been a really hot day today,’ Scott complained.

I still think it’s a stupid rule, though.

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