Its vs. it’s

Its, without an apostrophe, is the possessive of the pronoun it. It’s, with an apostrophe, is a contraction of it is or it has. If you’re not sure which spelling to use, try replacing it with it is or it has. If neither of those phrases works in its place, then its is the word you’re looking for.

Most English speakers are comfortable with the difference between its and it’s, yet even the most careful writers mix them up in careless moments. Such errors are typos, not grammar mistakes (there is a difference), and can usually be stamped out with a quick proofread. None of us is immune to these mistakes, so let’s not be too hard on people who make the occasional its/it’s slip-up.



In its place is a general sense that the United States and its allies have limited leverage. [Slate]

Columbia University has often shown that the principle is among its core values. [New York Daily News]

The rest of its funding comes from state and federal grants and private fundraising. [AP]


It’s a powerfully expressive grape that asserts both strong fruit and structural characteristics.  [Huffington Post]

Apple left little doubt that it’s poised to reveal the iPad 2 at an event in San Francisco to be held on Wednesday. [USA Today]

The courses began in June, and since then, it’s been booming. [Charleston City Paper]

Note that in each of these three examples, it’s would bear replacement with either it is or it has. In the above three examples, neither of these phrases would work in place of its.

22 thoughts on “Its vs. it’s”

  1. This is a bugbear of mine. Nouns and proper nouns use apostrophes in the possessive form. “It” is an anomaly!

  2. This is a bugbear of mine. Nouns and proper nouns use apostrophes in the possessive form. “It” is an anomaly!

    • Don’t you mean bugaboo? Never heard anyone use bugbear outside of Dungeons & Dragons. Not that I’ve ever played Dungeons & Dragons. I swear I don’t even know what a Monstrous Manual is. Who said Monstrous Manual? Oh I thought that guy over there said something about it.

      • Oh. Nevermind. I guess it’s interchangeable. Just looked it up. I guess I exposed my nerdiness for nothing. Welp, see ya later. (that’s welp and not whelp like a baby dragon. Dang it Jack….)

  3. Shouldn’t the last sentence of the first paragraph read: “None of us *are* immune to these mistakes…”?

    • The word “none” is singular. I like to think of it as a contraction for “not one,” or to go even further, “not a single one”.

      • The word “is” is being used after the word “us” though, meaning that it is a state of being verb to describe what the subject matter is doing. Therefore the proper verb that should be used is “are”. In fact, most of the time the state of being verb “is” is used in singular secondary subjects such as “it” “his” and “her.

    • Damn, I wish you didn’t ask! I didn’t notice at first, but now I am questioning it and I started reading the responses.

    • I think the problem lies with the author’s use of “None of us” instead of “No one”. The use of “None of us” implies plurality, whereas “No one” implies a singular. Basically, this sentence is a double negative. Since immune is a port from Latin, and the positive form didn’t make the transition, I’m going to use its definition instead: Not susceptible. So, we have “None of us is not susceptible to these mistakes”. Which still doesn’t sound right, but maybe it’s just the double negative causing the problem. The two negatives cancel each other out and we get: “All of us is capable of these mistakes” which is quite obviously wrong. Whereas if we used “No one”, instead we get: “Any one of us is capable of these mistakes”, which is correct. Any questions?

    • Can I say that on a philosophical level that none or “not one” implies an absence of subjects and is neither singular or plural. Had to think about using or or nor in that last sentence but I think I nailed it.

  4. Google defaults to _it’s_ apparently. I asked a question that was clearly _its_ and it marked it as wrong. :/

  5. What about when you would say something such as, “Who remembers its/it’s raining in Miami in 1989?”

    I can’t find the rule for this.

    Thanks in advance.

    • The rule you seek is that there should not be an “s” following “it” in that sentence. Whether or not you include an apostrophe is moot. Both options are equally wrong.

    • The correct sentence would be, “Who remembers it raining in Miami in 1989?” If you are looking for the contraction of “it was”, then that would be ’twas.

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