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"Its" vs. "It's"


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This one is a little tricky to remember because it is one of the weird English rules. Everyone knows that for possession you add the apostrophe S to the object. For example, "That was Jamie's cat."

You would think adding the apostrophe S would work for the object "it," but for it's a different story.

"Its" is the correct form to use for possession.

    For example, "The dog was angry. Its food was taken away." Meaning the dog got his food taken away.

"It's" is the contraction for "it is."

    For example, "The food was there. It's now gone." = "The food was there. It is now gone."

Try to remember the difference between the two.  :wink:

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You're right, some people get this wrong, but I never had problems understanding the difference between "it's" and "its". I learned quite quickly that "it's" is a contraction for "it is" or "it has" and that has helped me not to make this mistake. Some people have problems understanding "it", especially in Romania, because we don't have an equivalent in our language, but that's another story  :smile:.

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ddrmario123 makes a good point on the difference between the traditional use of the apostrophe to form the possessive.  I can see how this example would be a bit tricky for a person new to learning the English language.  As a native speaker, I would not even have thought to point this out as an exception to the typical rule.  I do know the difference, it's just that I would have probably just gone over possive form in general.

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I think I already mentioned on another topic that this is one of the most common mistakes I make when writing in English. And it's not that I don't the difference, because I do - I often spot this mistake when I'm reading text on the internet, or the occasional typo on a book. Yet even though I'm fully aware of it, I still repeatedly fall into the trap. It peeves so much to go back to my writing and find the confusion between "it's" and "its" ocurring so often, especially when I'm not at all ignorant about the rules of their usage!

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Some people have problems understanding "it", especially in Romania, because we don't have an equivalent in our language, but that's another story  :smile:.

That's interesting; how do you refer to an object? For example, if I asked "Where is the book?" Your answer in English might be "It is on the table." Without an equivalent to "it" how would you refer to the book when answering me?

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I've seen many people (even native speakers) make this mistake.

The rule is a bit confusing though, so I almost always overlook it. I mean, you have one rule (to indicate possession always use the apostrophe) and then you've got the exception (its), but at the same time the exception it's such a common word that you just end up being more confused.

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Like others have said, this is a really common mistake even for people who speak English natively.  The misuse of apostrophes is frequent, though there are a few tricks to remember in order to know whether you should be using one or not.  For the most part you can ask yourself:

1. Is this being put into the word to show ownership, such as in "my friend's car"

or

2. Is this a contraction, where the single word means two other words, such as in "they've gone to the store" being short for "they have gone to the store"

The problem with this particular situation is that "its" shows ownership, so people tend to look at rule one and think that it fits.  It's an unfortunate exception in this case, and just one of those things that people seem to have to learn by rote to get right.

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  • 1 month later...

Hah, you have no idea how many times I mix up the twos especially in the essays I write (so embarrassing!). Thanks a lot for clearing it up mate!

Even though I knew "it's" was a short form and "its" was a word itself, I don't know why I used to confuse the two together.

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Alot of people do find it hard to grasp and so make the mistake quite often :sad:.I think the best way to get a hang of it would be to remember that it's is the short form of it is and its shows ownership, then bear one in mind when you are ready to use either and that should solve the problem :cool:.

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Wow! I actually had a problem with these and I wouldn't even call it a problem because I didn't know. Before I found out that I was using the two wrongly, I used both based on assumptions. However, one day something prompted me to clarify and I saw that I'd been wrong over the years.

It's not uncommon for me to check posts I made on the web over the years and see the mistake in my posts. I was not alone though.  :grin:

@OP, thanks for sharing this, a lot of people will find your post helpful.

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There are a lot of times that I tend to be a grammar police, but this is one that I do not bother with because it is a rule that I don't ever remember learning in school. I really only picked this one up in doing a lot of writing myself.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's a common mistake because it's an uncommon exception to the rule. Rather than have billions of different characters to remember, we gave some characters multiple purposes. The apostrophe, for example, can be used to indicate possession or to replace letters in a contraction.

Example contractions

They'd - They had/they would

Isn't    - Is not

You've - You have

Who'll  - Who will/who shall

Example possessives

Car's radio

Jennifer's handbag

Boat's anchor

Cat's tail

The problem is it needs both, 's to indicate possession and 's to replace is or has, so one of them has to give way. The possessive form lost and becomes the exception to the common rule.

It's is always a contraction, so if you aren't saying it is or it has then don't use the apostrophe.

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  • 3 months later...

This is tricky, because we are conditioned that the apostrophe is used for possessives in the English language.  I frequently have to remind myself that "it's" stands for "it is" or "it has" and "its" is a neuter possessor.

Examples:

It's the middle of June.

Its paw prints were left in the mud.

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  • 2 weeks later...

It's is a contraction of the pronoun it and the verb is like I'm. Its, on the other hand, is a possessive pronoun like my, his, her, their, and your.

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  • 5 months later...

This one is a little tricky to remember because it is one of the weird English rules. Everyone knows that for possession you add the apostrophe S to the object. For example, "That was Jamie's cat."

You would think adding the apostrophe S would work for the object "it," but for it's a different story.

"Its" is the correct form to use for possession.

    For example, "The dog was angry. Its food was taken away." Meaning the dog got his food taken away.

"It's" is the contraction for "it is."

    For example, "The food was there. It's now gone." = "The food was there. It is now gone."

Try to remember the difference between the two.  :wink:

Thank you! I do find this one tricky. As a non-native English speaker, this is one of the most confusing things for me. It's weird because I don't have a problem with their/they're and your/you're but when it comes to it's/its I'm not sure I always use the correct term. Oh and I noticed that I used "it's" in this post and I hope I used it properly.  :wacky:

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This is a good example as it is one that people never remember. I often make the mistake and later realise that it does make a difference when reading my work back.

Thank you for the reminder as I am sure many of us have made the same mistake or have been uncertain on where to seperate the letters.

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One of the most yet ignored mistakes in the English language. I once talked to a friend of mine and when I told him that typed "its" instead of "it's" he said it sounds the same. At least it isn't like "your" and "you're".

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I found this confusing at first too but I eventually learned it by heart by acquainting the apostrophe'd version with all other names like saying William's. After that I was able to discern that I could just imagine the item as a person to know which to use whenever I felt confused and it's been helping me ever since.

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This one used to get me all the time when I was in high school. And then one day it hit me, the ' basically stand in for the "i' in "is". Anyway, for whatever reason, a light bulb had to go off in my head for this rule. Hahaha!!! My poor mother :D

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