It’s or Its?

Many writers struggle with it’s and its. Here’s how I keep them straight: the apostrophe is like a little “i.” So it’s means it is.

Let’s apply this to a sentence. Is it’s correct?

Puerto Rico is reconsidering it’s status.

[Hmm. “Puerto Rico is reconsidering it is status.” Nope. Got to fix that!]

You need the word its (no apostrophe).

Puerto Rico is reconsidering its status. CORRECT

But that doesn’t make sense! How can you have a possessive word without an apostrophe?

Answer: Lots of possessive words don’t have apostrophes. Do you put an apostrophe in his? (Please tell me you don’t!) 

None of the possessive pronouns get apostrophes: hers, ours, yours, theirs, its. Just think about his, and you’ll be right every time.

Puerto Rico is reconsidering his status. CORRECT

Puerto Rico is reconsidering its status. CORRECT

Try these sentences:

The dog is playing with his ball.
The dog is playing with its ball.
The company doubled his profits.
The company doubled its profits.

So here’s a handy way to get it’s/its right every time:

It’s = it is

Its = possessive (like his)

One more question: When do you put an apostrophe behind its? Answer: NEVER.

Its’ = WRONG

Maybe you can indulge me for just a moment longer. What do you do when you’re working on an important writing task and you suddenly realize you’re not sure what to do with its: Apostrophe? No apostrophe? And if you put it in, where does it go?

Here’s first aid for its (and many other puzzling words):

  • Use your spellchecker. It may not completely solve the problem, but at least it will stop you from putting the apostrophe at the end of its.
  • Take a moment to verify the spelling. Go to www.Dictionary.com, or look up the word in the dictionary.
  • Call the library! Reference librarians are paid to answer these questions.

Explaining the difference between its and it's

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