Which It’s Is Correct?

I was looking for a bottle of red wine at my favorite supermarket when I saw the sign below.

Which “it’s” is correct? The one in the first line, the third line, both, or neither?Wine photo

If you are not sure which pronoun is correct, read this blog post for help: It’s? Its? Or Its’?

Despite the problematic sign, I bought the Cannonau di Sardegna and will try it with dinner. I’ll report on the punctuation error and the taste tomorrow.

How’s your punctuation? Take a free trial of our online self-study course Punctuation for Professionals.


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

7 comments on “Which It’s Is Correct?”

  • Read the first rule of “Elements of Style” – Strunk and White. It’s right there. It’s simple in its elegance.

  • Most certainly the 3rd line reflects the correct usage. For me, it’s helpful to read every instance of “it’s” and “its” as “it is”. It’s a habit drilled well into my consciousness thanks to my 3rd grade teacher.

  • One out of 3 got it right so far. Sorry Jenny. I like the clue hidden in doug’s post. Chris, nothing against your 3rd grade teacher, as I’m sure she also taught you that “it’s” is a contraction of “it is” and “its” is an adjective that’s not apostrophized.

  • That’s an easy one. “It’s” means it is,” and “its” is the possessive of “it.” I believe this is the only time that a possessive does not take an apostrophe.

  • Thanks, everyone, for commenting.

    Jenny, you win! You are first and correct.

    Doug, thanks for illustrating the rule with your wonderful third sentence.

    Chris, yes! We give thanks for those teachers from long ago.

    Pete, everyone has gotten the answer correct. Perhaps people got to it different ways, but they all got good results.

    Rather than thinking of “its,” “my,” “your,” “his,” “her,” “our,” and “their” as adjectives, which they are, I have found it helpful to think of them as possessive pronouns working as adjectives. Then I can remind myself that no possessive pronouns have apostrophes. That includes “yours,” “hers,” “ours,” “theirs,” and “its.”

    Lorraine, correct! As I noted directly above, no possessive pronouns take apostrophes.

    Bob, I believe you are hinting that “it’s” is “it is.” You are correct, of course!

    Now to report on the wine (and display correct usage):

    Its taste is a bit dark for me, tending toward prunes. I believe it’s a good complement for some foods, perhaps pasta with tomato sauce. (Sorry for the lack of nuance here–I am better at punctuation and grammar than food.)


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