A friend of mine asked me to write about how to choose the correct form of its, and I am happy to comply. Those three little letters cause a lot of confusion, but once you master a couple of basic rules, the choice becomes simple. Here goes:
- Its’ is never correct. Your grammar and spellchecker should flag it for you. Always change it to one of the forms below.
- It’s is the contraction (abbreviated form) of "it is" and "it has." It’s has no other meanings–only "it is" and "it has."
- Its is the form to use in all other instances when you want a form of i-t-s but you are not sure which one. Its is a possessive form; that is, it shows ownership the same way Javier’s or Santosh’s does.
Example: The radio station has lost its license.
The tricky part of the its question is this: If we write "Javier’s license" with an apostrophe, why do we write "its license" without an apostrophe?
Here is the explanation: Its is like hers, his, ours, theirs, and yours. These are all pronouns. Possessive pronouns do not have apostrophes. That is because their spelling already indicates a possessive. For example, the possessive form of she is hers. The possessive form of we is ours. Because we change the spelling, there is no need to add an apostrophe to show possession. Its follows that pattern.
Its used correctly:
- You can recognize Rene’s music by its abrupt tempo changes.
- The golden retriever is known for its gentle personality.
- Golfing has lost its appeal for Gene because of his arthritis.
Test yourself. Decide which form is correct in these sentences.
- Its / It’s easy to get to the ballpark by car or bus.
- This restaurant is known for its / it’s emphasis on regional cooking.
- Its / It’s become very difficult to find parking near the library since it moved from its / it’s Maple Street location.
Remember: When the word is a contraction of "it is" or "it has," the correct choice is it’s. Otherwise, the correct choice is its.
- The word is a contraction in this sentence, so the correct form is it’s.
- The phrase "it is" doesn’t make sense in this sentence, which needs a possessive form: its.
- The sentence begins with a contraction of "it has" (it’s) and then needs a possessive form (its).
I hope my explanation of its / it’s works well for you. Just remember: Its’ is never correct.
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