Its vs. It’s: Punctuation Explained
  • 3-minute read
  • 2nd September 2023

Its vs. It’s: Punctuation Explained

In the vast landscape of the English language, certain words seem almost designed to trip up writers. Its and it’s fall into this category, as they often lead to confusion and grammatical blunders.

Fear not, though, for we’re here to shed light on these tricky spellings so you can feel confident using them. Check out our guide below on each term and how to remember which is which.

The Possessive Pronoun Its

Let’s start with the less commonly understood of the two: its. This word is a possessive pronoun, much like his, her, and their. It denotes ownership or belonging to something.

The catch is, unlike other possessive words that use an apostrophe combined with an s (e.g., Mary’s book or the tree’s leaves), its doesn’t use an apostrophe.

When to Use Its


When you want to show that something belongs to something, use its. This can apply to any type of noun except for a person, in which case you’d use their name or pronouns such as his, hers, or their.

Here are some examples of using its to show possession:

The cat licked its paw.

The company increased its profits.


Like possession, use its to describe a characteristic or quality of something:

The smartphone is known for its sleek design.

The flower proudly displayed its vibrant colors.

The Contraction It’s

Now, let’s delve into it’s, the contraction that sometimes confounds even experienced writers. Contractions are words that combine two words into one by using an apostrophe to denote where the missing letters are.

It’s is a contraction that combines it with is or has. Here are some examples:

It is a beautiful day. → It’s a beautiful day.

It has been a pleasure working with you. → It’s been a pleasure working with you.

If you’re considering using it’s in your writing, keep in mind that contractions aren’t always acceptable. In formal writing, it may be best to stick with the uncontracted version.

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Key Points for Its and It’s

The reason these two spellings often trip us up is that apostrophes are used for both contractions and to show possession. In the case of its vs. it’s, the apostrophe is solely used to create a contraction.

If you’re unsure which spelling to use, read the sentence out loud and try substituting the word with it is or it has. If it works, then it’s is the correct choice. If it doesn’t, then you should use the possessive pronoun its.


To cement your understanding, here’s a quick recap:

Its is used to indicate possession or association and doesn’t have an apostrophe.

It’s is a contraction of it is or it has and uses an apostrophe.

The best way to solidify your grasp of these spellings is through practice. The more you use its and it’s, the more confident you’ll feel. And if you’d like an expert editor to check your work, send it our way! We’ll ensure perfect grammar, spelling, word choice, punctuation, and more. Try our service out for free today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you ever use its for people?

While you can use its for animals or inanimate objects, when showing possession for people you should always use their, his, or her, depending on their gender.

How can you tell if you need an apostrophe for it’s?

If it is or it has works in the sentence, then you need an apostrophe to form the contraction it’s.

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