Battle of the Words: It’s versus Its

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Have you ever struggled over when to use Its versus It’s? These two words battle each other frequently over which one is correct—so what’s the difference? The good news is that there are simple tricks to help you remember the correct usage.

Although we tend to think that an apostrophe indicates possession, this is not the case here. The word Its (without the apostrophe!) is the possessive form. Use it to indicate that something belongs to something else:

  • The dog chased its tail. The dog’s tail.
  • The old house shook to its core during the storm. The house’s core.

So if you’re talking about possession–about ownership–then you need Its.

On the other hand, It’s (with the apostrophe!) is a contraction—always, 100% of the time. Use it to indicate the phrase It is or the phrase It has.

  • I brought my umbrella because it’s raining. It is raining.     
  • It’s been several years since I was in Europe. It has been several years since I was in Europe.

So if you think you need the apostrophe but you aren’t totally sure, you can substitute one of these phrases, and the correct usage will become clearer.

GrammaRx Need a higher dose of this grammar tip? Check out these interactive exercises brought to you by Grammar Bytes!

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