Its vs. It’s



Would you like to know the #1 Grammar Error?
Hint:
The word involved is small and it’s contained in this sentence.

That’s right: its vs. it’s
Yet the two rules are actually quite easy to remember.

Rule 1: When you mean it is or it has, use an apostrophe.

Examples:
It’s a nice day.
It’s your right to refuse the invitation.
It’s been great getting to know you.

Rule 2: When you are using its as a possessive, don’t use the apostrophe.

Examples:
The cat hurt its paw.
The furniture store celebrated its tenth anniversary.
Note: From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped in order to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, ours, etc.”

Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2012, at 5:35 pm

143 Comments on Its vs. It’s

143 responses to “Its vs. It’s

  1. Sandy says:

    I was taught you don’t write #1. Instead, it should be written No.1. Could you please clarify? Thanks

    • We were certainly taking liberties there by using the very informal “#1 Grammar Error” because “The Number One Grammar Error” or perhaps formally proper “The Number One Grammatical Error” wouldn’t look as catchy or fit on one line.

      • Lia says:

        If one has set out to go so far as to nitpick the use of #1 over No. 1 in an attempt to display an intellectual superiority, than it would be wise of them to review their own grammar and/or punctuation, as they have failed to place a space between the period (it is No. 1 not No.1). Additionally, while I agree that the use of #1 is rather informal, the correct “proper” title would actually be “The Number One Grammatical Error”, rather than your suggestion of “The Number One Grammar Error”.
        Take note for the future to review and correct your own writing before attempting to correct another in an attempt to create superiority.

        • Although you are correct in pointing out Sandy’s typographical error of omitting the space after the period, we must defend our blog’s use of the term “grammar error.” The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 5.66, Adjectives Defined, includes the following definition:

          “An adjective may add a new idea to a noun or pronoun by describing it more definitely or fully {red wagon} {human error}”

          We used the term “grammar error” the same way one would use “human error.”

          We are not sure who you are assuming has made “an attempt to create superiority.” We do note, however, an incorrect use of “than” vs. “then,” and a lack of agreement between “one” and “them” in your first sentence. Also, our website represents American English, where periods and commas are placed inside quotation marks (sentence two).

          • Julian says:

            This was the funniest thing. I’m in ENG COMP first year and I feel so dumb reading these comments. where can I find information without feeling so ignorant! Lia, was it necessary to make an “attempt” to establish superiority?

          • We would love for our readers to feel smarter after reading the blog comments. You might want to begin your study by reviewing our English rules, starting with the ones on capitalization and punctuation. To gain more knowledge, read the blogs that correspond with the rules and try to master the quizzes. Hopefully our website will help you with your class. And, a new edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation will be available in February 2014, which we hope you will be eager to obtain! Good luck!

          • Jan says:

            Thank you, thank you, thank you for explaining about placement of commas and periods WITHIN closing quotation marks in American English. I wish everyone knew that! There has been a noticeable change the past 10 years or so where most of the people in the USA leave the commas and periods outside of end quotes, like little orphans left out in the rain. I honestly do not think our public schools are teaching this anymore.
            And while I’m at it, here’s another recent, but incorrect practice: The use of “apostrophe s” to pluralize a word. Where did THAT come from?! We had rules telling us to “drop the Y and add IES,” or “add an S,” or “add an ES.” Outside of using “apostrophe s” to indicate, for example, that a student earned straight A’s on her report card, the “apostrophe s” is like using a dab of glue stick to attach an S and create the plural. “TV’s” is not the same as “TVs,” but people who do not understand how to pluralize won’t know the difference. Are people too lazy to pluralize correctly? Or are these basics just not being taught anymore? Do our teachers not even know? What has happened to the English language? It’s sad.
            Thank you for the work you do, for helping educate the writing world, and for letting me vent.

          • Laurie Lee Oberg says:

            Wikipedia, though based in the US, eschews the American-style “punctuation inside the quotation mark.” I know, because I have made corrections that have subsequently been undone, and have been chastised when questioning the practice. Apparently, at Wikipedia, techie/programmer types make the rules regarding punctuation.

          • Peter Stoller says:

            With regard to the following:

            ‘“An adjective may add a new idea to a noun or pronoun by describing it more definitely or fully {red wagon} {human error}”

            We used the term “grammar error” the same way one would use “human error.”’

            The problem with this reasoning is that, unlike “red” and “human,” “grammar” is not an adjective. In the case of “red wagon,” we’d definitely say the wagon is red; in “human error,” we could say the error is human. However, in the case of “grammar error,” we would never say, “the error is grammar.”

            I submit that “grammar error” as opposed to “grammatical error” is a bit like “person error” as opposed to “personal error.” Which is to say, “grammar error” is a grammatical error—and I’m fairly certain CMOS would agree with me.

          • The phrase “#1 grammar error,” while not strictly formal, was used to catch people’s attention. We expanded on the topic of nouns as adjectives in our post Apostrophes and False Possessives, posted on May 19, 2014.

          • Kate C says:

            I have injuries which make it quite painful to type, so I am not able to get involved in an involved discussion, but there was such a basic–and important–misunderstanding of fundamentals in your response that I’m adding my own.

            I’m addressing these remarks:

            Although you are correct in pointing out Sandy’s typographical error of omitting the space after the period, we must defend our blog’s use of the term “grammar error.” The Chicago Manual of Style’s Rule 5.66, Adjectives Defined, includes the following definition:

            “An adjective may add a new idea to a noun or pronoun by describing it more definitely or fully {red wagon} {human error}”

            We used the term “grammar error” the same way one would use “human error.”

            (Consider the above as a block quotation. I’m not sufficiently sophisticated in manipulating text, especially on this tablet. There will likely be inappropriate punctuation marks in various places–not to mention weird spacing, for which I apologize.)

            You dragged in the ‘big guns’, in what appears to be a knee-jerk defensive reaction, without recognizing that the CMS does not support your own misuse. The CMS quote refers to ADJECTIVES–with no reference to nouns used as adjectives (a whole different category).

            The CMS examples, ‘red’ and ‘human’, stand as both nouns and adjectives, with ‘human’ actually being an adjective first and noun second.*

            On the other hand, ‘grammar’ is a NOUN, period. It has an adjectival form (grammatical), and forcing it to act as an adjective is a major error, particularly on a site where students hope to find correct usage. (The usage of ‘grammar book’ is not that of an adjective, and if I could handle the physical stress I’d go into that, but I can’t right now.)

            *Similarly, ‘feline’,’canine’, etc.

            I’m curious to see if you’re able to accept your own, uh…, human error and retroactively apologize to Lia.

          • Please see our December 20, 2015, response to Peter Stoller.

        • jen says:

          Lia, Sandy was simply ASKING for clarity! You were the one trying, unsuccessfully, to show superiority. Go back, read your reply, THEN you may understand what I mean. Don’t be such a meanie!!

          In your own words: “Take note for the future to review and correct your own writing before attempting to correct another in an attempt to create superiority.”

        • seth says:

          Someone is being a bit pedantic. Also, I love how the publisher of this blog responded to your comment.

        • Richard says:

          … Intellectual superiority, thEn ….

          • Correct, as pointed out in our comment of October 5, 2013.

          • Chase says:

            I stumbled upon this comments section while looking up the proper use of it’s vs its. Can i just say that I laughed very hard at the politely worded grammar Nazi war that has ensued. It was educational and made my day. Thanks!

          • Captain Obvious says:

            Apparently we are all somewhat ignorant or we wouldn’t be looking up the correct usage of its and it’s, let alone discussing how superior one another is, or rather battling it out with words! I found this incredibly farcical and just had to plug my thoughts in! Good day to all! At least we can laugh and learn all at the same time, or perhaps learn and cry for a few. I just noticed this website refuses to let me look incompetent, as it spell checks and auto capitalizes words for me! Hmm

          • Dubya says:

            The first rule of grammatical Criticism is that one is guaranteed to make a grammatical error.

          • Cara says:

            I searched to satisfy my curiosity as to why Outlook keeps spell-checking my “it’s” as in “it has” to “its” in my emails; What I found was a hysterical war of words. Thanks for giving me a giggle and proving Outlook wrong!

  2. Christopher says:

    Is there a reason behind why there is no apostrophe when “its” is used as a possessive?
    I think that part of the confusion is that an apostrophe is normally used as a possessive with a noun or proper noun.

    • You are correct for nouns but not for pronouns. Our Rule 9 of Apostrophes states “Never use an apostrophe with possessive pronouns: his, hers, its, theirs, ours, yours, whose. They already show possession so they do not require an apostrophe.” If an apostrophe is used, you have the contraction it’s which means “it is.” This is a very common mistake.

      • Koushik says:

        Why is it wrong. It’s my pen gets expanded to It is my pen. I don’t see why you can’t have an apostrophe for possessive its.

        • As we said in our response to Eric of January 27, 2013, “From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, etc.”

          • Mary-Celeste says:

            Wasn’t it even more recent than a couple hundred years ago? I remember being surprised by that entry in Merriam Websters’s Dictionary of English Usage.

          • According to Wikipedia, “The possessive of it was originally it’s, and many people continue to write it this way, though the apostrophe was dropped in the early 1800s and authorities are now unanimous that it’s can be only a contraction of it is or it has. For example, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson used it’s as a possessive in his instructions dated 20 June 1803 to Lewis for his preparations for his great expedition.”

          • Renee says:

            Please tell me the word Websters’s is incorrect. It makes my head hurt. How does one pronounce this?

          • If there is a person whose first name is Webster, the singular possessive is Webster’s. If there is a family whose last name is Webster, the plural possessive is Websters’. The only way that Websters’s could be correct is if the person’s first name is Websters, and that seems unlikely.

        • Zach says:

          That’s not an example of possession, that’s an example of contraction which you demonstrated by expanding it.

        • ibwilliamsi says:

          “It’s my pen” has an apostrophe because it is a contraction of “It is my pen”. If your pig has a pen, you could say “It’s its pen”.

          • Peter says:

            I believe “it’s its pen” in a porcine context would only be appropriate when referring to a neutered pig.

  3. J says:

    Thank you so much! I never knew the difference. This is really helpful because I have to take a test tomorrow in writing mechanics.

  4. Maddie says:

    For the use of an apostrophe in Christopher’s comment, what if the noun ended in an s? Would it be “Mr. Williams’s house”?

    • Our Rule 2 of Apostrophes says, “Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.”

      Mr. Williams’s house is correct.

  5. Char says:

    Jane, thank you so very much for posting this to remind me of the simple rules. I’ve begun writing and editing again lately and this one has driven me batty for not being able to really remember.
    Blessings
    Char

  6. Kevin says:

    Wow, I now have new respect for my grammar school teachers. I’m 52, not a writer and knew all of those…although it is nice to be reminded of the rules now and then. I do have one question though. I recall being taught something called parsing in Jr. High school. I have never been able to find anything about this though. I have always assumed I remember the name wrong. It was a procedure where each word had multiple layers of definition in a sentence. For example, a word would first be identified as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.. and then there were additional levels, such as direct object and many, many more. Is this just standard grammar, or is there a specific area of study for this level of detail. I recall that it was very challenging, but rewarding as well.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Parsing is the correct term and you can find loads of information on the Internet about this detailed technique for learning grammar. Whereas parsing was generally done orally or using written-out explanations, sentence diagramming came later and used a diagram method for learning parts of speech and grammar. As Wikipedia states, “Parsing was formerly central to the teaching of grammar throughout the English-speaking world, and widely regarded as basic to the use and understanding of written language. However the teaching of such techniques is no longer current.”

      • mrclean says:

        Did Wiki state a comma splice too?

        As Wikipedia states, “Parsing was formerly central to the teaching of grammar throughout the English-speaking world, and widely regarded as basic to the use and understanding of written language. However the teaching of such techniques is no longer current.”

        • Our Rule 14 of Commas defines a comma splice as “an error caused by joining two strong clauses with only a comma instead of separating the clauses with a conjunction, a semicolon, or a period.” Since the Wikipedia entry does use the conjunction and, it does not contain a comma splice.

          • Vanessa L says:

            “English-speaking world, and widely regarded”

            Is it necessary to have both the comma and the conjunction?

          • The conjunction could be left out, but not the comma. Wikipedia could have written:

            “Parsing was formerly central to the teaching of grammar throughout the English-speaking world, widely regarded as basic to the use and understanding of written language. However the teaching of such techniques is no longer current.”

        • Alexis says:

          In this sentence, isn’t “widely regarded as basic to the use and understanding of written language” a dependent clause, so shouldn’t the comma before the conjunction be eliminated? I was under the impression that a comma is used when a conjunction joins two clauses only if both clauses are independent.

          • We have to remember that the reason to punctuate is to guide the reader. The comma comes after a long clause. It’s not strictly necessary but it gives the reader some breathing room before the next long passage starting with “and.” Though we previously mentioned that the conjunction could be omitted, we do not recommend dropping the “and” in any case. Plus, the word “was” needs to be added before “widely.”

            Rather than trying to apply robotic rules, we should be looking at this as a unique sentence created by humans, with places in it where pauses are indicated. Commas are desirable wherever someone would pause if speaking the sentence. That’s just comma, er, common sense.

      • Michelle says:

        We did parsing in grade 8 years ago. I loved it! Sadly, there is barely any grammar taught, let alone parsing, in our primary, elementary, and secondary schools of today.

  7. Eric says:

    Thank you very much – very useful. I also never understood why the possessive for “it” doesn’t require an apostrophe.

    • From what we understand, the possessive was also written it’s until a couple of hundred years ago. While we don’t know for certain, it is possible that the apostrophe was dropped to parallel possessive personal pronouns like hers, theirs, yours, etc.

  8. David Morenus says:

    I think that your reply of Jan. 27, 2013 (or June 22, 2012) adds value to the article, by providing the reason. Perhaps you should edit it in?

    As to your Rule 2 of Apostrophes’ suggestion, that “Kansas’s statute” be preferred to “Kansas’ statute”, I disagree. Not only is my mother with me on this, but so is the U.S. Supreme Court (Kansas v. Marsh, 2006). Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion, leaving off the extra “s”; Justice David Souter wrote the dissenting opinion, wishing to add it on.

    • Thank you for your suggestion to elaborate on the grammar tip “Its vs. It’s“; we may very well do that. However, we stand firmly behind our Apostrophes, Rule 2 Note, which reads “Although names ending in s or an s sound are not required to have the second s added in possessive form, it is preferred.” The Chicago Manual of Style agrees and includes the specific example Kansas’s legislature. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court was not making a legal determination regarding apostrophes! You note that one justice left off the final s, one did not. While Supreme Court justices are no doubt very learned persons, they may have their own preferences regarding the nuances of grammar and punctuation.

  9. Katie says:

    Is there a reason why it seems that the autocorrect features say “it’s” grammatically incorrect when used as a contraction?

    • You may want to contact the software company with your question. The only other reason we can think of is that it is suggesting that you consider using it is rather than a contraction in formal writing.

    • Beth says:

      Actually I have noticed the same issue, that the grammar check function in Word consistently gives a correction when I use it’s for the contraction of it is, recommending that I use its. In fact, I searched out this article because I thought maybe the rules had changed and I wasn’t aware! Thanks for the article to confirm that I’m using it’s/its correctly.

      • Perhaps if enough people contact them about the error they will fix it.

        • Laura says:

          Well today I’m typing away in word 2010 and type “last 30 mintues at its longest” and the Grammar tools underlines this and recommends it’s. To me it is “its” so it would seem the grammar tool in Word 2010 has it backwards.

  10. Emily says:

    It thought its’ represents the punctuation for showing possession. For example, the dog enjoyed playing with its’ toy. Is this incorrect?

    • As our Rule 2 above states, “When you are using its as a possessive, don’t use the apostrophe.” The word it’s is the contraction for it is or it has. Its’ is grammatically incorrect since the word it is always singular.
      The dog enjoyed playing with its toy.

  11. Aman says:

    So there is no such word as “its'”?

  12. K says:

    Katie and Beth, I think there is an option in the grammer setting in Word to avoid the use of contractions. You may be able to change the setting to avoid this notice. (In Word 2007, look in the Office menu, Word Options, Proofing for the settings.)

  13. Willow says:

    This has changed from when I was in high school in the 90’s. We were taught to always write it’s, no matter what.

  14. Jess says:

    What if the sentence is “…it’s been decided…” correct or not?

  15. Timster says:

    I still remember the very day in elementary school in the 1960’s in Illinois when my teacher taught on this subject. I loved grammar and parsing and sentence trees.
    But one day she wrote on the chalk board -its’- and explained it was the possessive for the third person nueter singular. It didn’t make any sense to me then and it doesn’t now! I am so glad to learn that the apostrophe was dropped and I don’t have to use it for the possessive of “it”. Thank you so very much for clearing this up. Now I just have to remember to use “it’s” as a contraction!

    • Mary V says:

      I respectfully ask if one should write 1960s or 1960’s; I am unable to find the answer on this site. Thank you.

      • The eleventh edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, which will be published in February 2014, acknowledges that there are different schools of thought about years and decades. Both of your options are in widespread use. We will be making this change to the GrammarBook.com website at that time.

    • Mary M Ritchie says:

      I was very happy to read this entry because I also learned (its’) was the correct form to use for possession. I attended school in the 1950s-60s in New York State. I’ve noticed the lack of (its’) so I found this website and have enjoyed reading all the comments. Were our teachers wrong? Was it that way once and then changed? I know you’ve said it was (it’s) at one time for possessive but wasn’t it also (its’)?

  16. Mary V says:

    It’s been a pleasure reading about its usages. Correct?
    Thanks.

  17. Lee says:

    In terms of transcribing something like a sermon, the speaker often uses the term “it’s”. If I want to publish a many sermons into a book, would it be proper to change the colloquial use of “it’s” into “it is” for publication purposes or is it better to use the original voice of the speaker. Thank you for reading.

    • If you are quoting the speaker directly, it is better to use the original words of the speaker.

      • J says:

        Regarding the SPOKEN word or unpublished notes, I recently learned that when editing for publication, the ‘editor’ can clean up grammatical errors and speech hesitations (uh; uhm; you know; And-and…, etc.). The same with, as an example, “a written sermon, that, uses, commas inappropriately, or, excessively, and, forgets to use end, punctuation” or puts the punctuation incorrectly (inside; outside) for a needed quotation mark.

        However, in editing spoken words or unpublished written notes, you must keep the tone, rhythm, and especially the message the speaker/writer intended.

        I had the same concerns about editing a speaker whose stuttering caused repetition, such as “rep-repet–repetition” in a sentence.

        It would be a disservice to allow a published work to unnecessarily embarrass the speaker. An editor’s job is to edit for a clean copy. Again, as long as you do not change the speaker’s intent, it’s fine to do an editing clean-up.

        Now, if a writer / publisher agreed that “Ths writier wans all miss takes left in the pub leassed coppie, den dat is differents.”

        My source: A publisher of a world-wide professional journal.

  18. Julia says:

    One thing to be aware of: Microsoft Office autocorrect often highlights “it’s”, even when it’s correct.

    I thought I already knew that rule, but it kept correcting me. So I had to look it up again.

    Thanks for posting.

    • Jonny says:

      And it’s still happening on the new version of Microsoft Word; thought I was going mental when it kept correcting me. So I second guessed myself and checked up on its correct usage here – now i have 15 pages to go back through and check my its-it’s.

  19. D. G. says:

    Thank you very much, this was helpful. I know how to use “it’s” (or it is/has) but I was a little confused about the other way “its”.

  20. Eleanor T. says:

    I have a quick question: is “its'” a figment of my imagination? I thought I
    had learned to put the apostrophe after the s to show possession, even
    including when using its’.

    • A couple of other people have written in saying they thought they remembered being taught in school in the mid-1900s to write its’ in certain situations. To our knowledge this has never been correct. When used to show possession, its has no apostrophe.

  21. Starburned says:

    Thank you for this. After hours upon hours of writing an essay on little sleep (and on an uninteresting topic) I forgot this basic rule.

  22. Shiblee Mehdi says:

    My little girl of 8 years wrote following sentences with Its. (by the way, English is not our mother tongue)
    Are any of the following incorrect?

    1. Its size is too big.
    2. Its name is sweety.
    3. Its colour is red.
    4. Its taste is sweet.

    • Your daughter did very well. The proper name Sweety in the second sentence should be capitalized. Also, in American English the word “colour” is spelled “color.”

      • Bill says:

        However, here in Canada, it’s colour, eh? I find it’s pretty amazing that, with all the bad habits associated with current texting practices and its tendancy to appear more like pictograms or a messages written in code, that anyone can recall, use, or recognize proper grammar, spelling, or capitalization.

        My goldfish recently left its diary out where I could read it. It’s been well written but its “its” and “it’s” were constantly misused. Anyway, it’s been fun reading your blog and all its comments.

  23. Shoba says:

    I have a question sort of may be irrelevant to the it here. I need some clarification as I am confused by ‘it’. If it is third person singular is it ok to use it in a sentence where it means a child? For example if avsentence says, “the child will be place in its level.” is it right or not. I am confused if it can be used for human being ( the confusion is due to the grammar in my native language where “it” can be used only for non living thing.)
    Thanks

  24. Shoba says:

    I am sorry, pls read, if the sentence says ” the child will be placed in it’s level”

  25. Levin rojas says:

    when just using it’s as an affirmation to a question, for example:
    “is that my cup?”
    “it is.”
    can use “it’s” as an answer to a question like this? example:
    “is this my cup?”
    “it’s”

    if I’m going with the logic of rule one this type of answer would be perfectly viable but it doesn’t roll off for some reason. please clarify

    • Using it’s as a contraction for “it is” is correct in some instances. Responding to the question “Is that your cup?” with the replies “It is” or “It’s my cup” is grammatically correct. We would not recommend responding to any question by simply replying “it’s.”

  26. Chris M says:

    I hope you can find time to address the incorrect use of “I” and “me.”

    For example:

    Mary and I are going to the cinema.

    It’s time for Mary and me to go to the cinema.

    Both the above sentences are grammatically correct yet nowadays people are more and more using “I” when they should be using “me.”

    • We agree it is important to understand the proper use of I vs. Me. We have written about this topic a number of times, including:
      I vs. Me
      I vs. Me (Review)
      Yet More Pronoun Pitfalls
      Shape-shifting Troublemakers
      I Subject, Your Honor

      • Bill says:

        Basically, if you’re talking about yourself and another person, consider where in the sentence you refer to yourself and another. If your reference to yourself and some one else is at the beginning of the sentence, it’s proper to say “some one and I.” If your reference is at the end, it’s “some one and me.” An easier way to figure this out if to say the sentence to yourself but omit the other person. If you find that you would use “me” then it would be “someone and me.” If you find that you would use “I” then it would be “some one and I.”

        That’s a great question as I know many people have trouble with this. I hope my explanation isn’t confusing.

      • Edd says:

        “I” is a subject pronoun and “me” is an object pronoun. If we did more parsing in grammar classes, more people would get this right. (And my job teaching Spanish would be so much easier!)

        Sam and I saw Sue.
        She waved at Sam and me.

    • Mary Ritchie says:

      I always thought this was a recent problem until I noticed many actors in films from the 1940s making the same mistakes! I’ve patiently explained to my step-children the rules and reasons for using me and I correctly in sentences in an attempt for them to sound educated. They are in their 50s and still use me and I incorrectly and I’ve given up. Their mother also corrects them! It’s sad but apparently that’s how language evolves. I think it sounds uneducated and I cringe when I hear me and I misused.

  27. Simon says:

    “And, a new edition of The Blue Book of Grammar…”

    I would like to point out that the word “and” did not require a comma, it could be considered grammatically incorrect. Not to mention that starting a sentence with that word is generally frowned upon, too.

    Sincerely, someone without an English background.

    • The writer felt that in this particular case a pause was appropriate after “And,” hence the comma. This is an experienced writer’s choice.

      To your second point, The Chicago Manual of Style’s rule 5.206 says, “There is a widespread belief—one with no historical or grammatical foundation—that it is an error to begin a sentence with a conjunction such as and, but, or so. In fact, a substantial percentage (often as many as 10 percent) of the sentences in first-rate writing begin with conjunctions. It has been so for centuries, and even the most conservative grammarians have followed this practice.”

  28. Jason V. says:

    I am certain that I too was taught that there were 3 forms of the words in question. Examples: “It’s time to go.”, “Its name is Spot.”, and “Its’…” Unfortunately, an example of the third case eludes me, but I do recall that it was only to be used to replace a noun that is sometimes singular, but at others plural, when the noun is being used in its plural form.
    I think an example might have been a noun such as “family” or “troop”; it may denote one thing (the group), or multiple things (the members of the group).
    (By the way, for reference I was in Kindergarten through 12th grades between 1974 and 1987.)

  29. Albert says:

    Regarding “its’s” or even “its'”, if you were writing about the count of the number of the word “its” in a sentence where there was only one “its”, but the font color was red for that word, could you correctly write, “That sentence has one its and that its’s color is red?”
    If another sentence had two “its” words, both red, could you correctly write, “The its’ color is red?” I apologize in advance for all my errors here and would look forward to any correct corrections.

    • Your sentences are quite eccentric, but we doubt they would be considered ungrammatical. We recommend rewriting your sentences to avoid confusion. You could write the following:
      The word its appears once in the sentence, and the font color of the word is red.
      The font color of the word its is red. (This sentence works regardless of how many times the word its appears in the sentence.)

  30. juanita says:

    Should the sentence read:

    Its levels to this OR There are levels to this? Or are both correct?

  31. Tope says:

    I am obsessed with writing and speaking English appropriately.
    I actually knew the crystal clear difference between both, I just needed to read something educative. Thanks

  32. belinda says:

    Its’ vs its
    If I am referring to a Trust for example and then I state that:

    The trust has granted increases in excess of ABC’s declarations to meet its’ targeted objective.

    Is it not appropriate to show possession with the apostrophe after the “s”?

  33. Anik says:

    Stupidity at its best or at it’s best? Which one is correct?

  34. J Gordon says:

    Hello,

    I am a bit confused at your answer for its’ vs. its. I was actually taught 3 version of its: its, it’s and its’. I learned them in two different schools, in two different states, that there IS a use for its’. One example in my old book says:

    “We hope you enjoyed learning about our new product and all its’ features.”

    Please clarify.

    Thanks so much!

    I totally understand the it’s use – it is, or it has, etc. I totally understand the its use – “My dog hurt its paw”, etc.

  35. Lumiere says:

    Hi Jane : I have a question please. I am learning English please? It was has an apostrophe? It is, it has, it was? Thank you.

  36. Scott says:

    I wonder if you could comment about:

    “The cat hurt its paw” and “It is mine” otherwise written as “It’s mine”.

    In many senses “it’s” in place of “it is” is sensible as a possessive.

    What say you?

  37. Al says:

    Very helpful. I came to this site to find the correct usage of the its vs. it’s controversy. After reading the comments I was wondering what happened to the double space after the period?

    • Our post Rules Do Change says, “Originally, typewriters had monospaced fonts (skinny letters and fat letters took up the same amount of space), so two spaces after ending punctuation marks such as the period were used to make the text more legible. However, most computer fonts present no difficulty with proportion or legibility, so use just one space after a period, colon, question mark, or exclamation point at the end of a sentence.”

  38. Jenni says:

    I know that it’s proper to say “The company increased its contributions for employees”… but what if company is plural? It doesn’t sound right to say “The companies increased its contributions for employees.” And you can’t use “their” because the company is an “it.” What do you do in this case?

  39. Diego Bertoncin says:

    Dear Mrs Jane, I was delighted to read your comments. I found by chance your page, but it will be my “daily” page for the future! I am Italian, so till now, I beg your pardon for my poor English, but to master a language it’s not (it’s, not its…) an easy thing. Just reading the punctuation rules, I discovered that there are many differences (that you’ll find) among our languages… May I take advantage by your kindness to give satisfaction to a curiosity of mine? Verbal forms: very easy in English. I,you, we, they…plus an infinitive without the “to” and “Bob’s your uncle”. Strange for me that the English felt the necessity to “distinguish” the less important of the singular persons: the third (I cannot say that “you” are not important and – for me – I use no less than the CAPITAL LETTER). And for this distinction you use the sign of the plural!Perhaps there is not reason, but I am sure that, if this reason exists, you will be no kind to tell it to me. Thank you.

    • We are pleased that you find our website valuable. We appreciated your discussion of differences between our languages. Since we do not specialize in the history or evolution of the English language, we are not able to give you a reason for these distinctions between the pronouns in the area of subject-verb agreement.

  40. Diego Bertoncin says:

    Dear Mrs Jane, sorry for the “no kind” instead of “so kind” at the end of my comment above. Let me add: after having seen all the questions in which an apostrophe is involved, for your readers it could be interesting to know what “apostrophe” means. The Webster’s correctly says that it comes from the Greek “turned away”, but it doesn’t say the why. Well, the why is that this sign is the specular image of the Greek sign for a “rough breathing”: it’s that sign inside out (if you write the apostrophe like a comma). The Webster’s adds that in grammar shows “the omission of a letter (don’t for do not)” and, in the possessive case, “originally showed the omission of the letter “e” in the inflectional ending of the case” (I understand that “girl’s dress” was written “girles dress”). Keeping this in mind, it should be impossible to write “its'”, as in certain schools (!) it’s taught. Have a good day

  41. Diego Bertoncin says:

    Thanks so much for the quickness of your reply (Latin were used to say “Qui cito dat, bis dat” – who gives at once gives twice). I have to admit that isn’t easy to find people fond of history of their language: you don’t know how many times I have asked this question. No one of your followers can help us? Thank anyway.

  42. Peter Stoller says:

    Dear Jane,

    I tend to agree with those who think “its” is a pointless exception to the rule of using apostrophes for possessives. Nonetheless, I understand and follow the (exception to the) rule. That said, I have a related question.

    In the instance where “it” is part of a name, does the rule change? Example: a person’s Internet alias is “Share it.” If Share it shares something on Facebook, it would be “Share it’s post,” would it not?

  43. Paul says:

    I just wanted to look up the correct use of it’s vs its and think this was a very good discussion, though!

  44. David says:

    I was taught the same thing: [it’s] for [it is] and [its] for the possessive case.

    The purported status of this error as the most common in grammar must surely be aggravated by the fact that my Word for Mac 2011 is recommending I replace [its] in a possessive case with [it’s], which according to Jane Straus and my own education is diametrically incorrect advice.

  45. Susan Petrarca says:

    I was taught in grade school that whenever you see “it’s” say it as “it is.” if i makes sense in the sentence, leave it that way. If it doesn’t, take out the apostrophe!

  46. Natalie says:

    Thank you for so much lively and humorous learning! I came upon your site while looking for somewhere credible to reference my information on the use of its as a possessive pronoun and have been well rewarded.
    It has, however, taken quite some time out of my afternoon as I have trawled through the comments below the immediately required information. The banter is delightful.
    I noticed a discussion on the possessive form of names ending in s and wonder if you can please confirm the correct singular possessive form of James? For example, James’s shoes or James’ shoes? Reading the above discussion on the name Webster, I am assuming James’s shoes to be correct, but I was recently told this was incorrect.
    Thanks for your help. I will visit again!

  47. Sean says:

    Does anybody know why you can’t reply “Yes, it’s’, instead of ‘Yes, it is’?

    I realise it isn’t grammatically correct, but I can’t think of a rule or reason for this.

    Many thanks

    • It is not a matter of “grammatically correct.” Fluent speakers of English would simply never say “yes it’s” instead of “yes it is” when yes it is is a complete three-word sentence.

  48. John says:

    I find the blog to be one of my most important resources. Thank you. In my early years of study, I was told to read “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. Do you have any comment on that text?

    Thanks and Best Regards

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