It’s vs. Its

English Grammar 20 March 2010 | 16 Comments

Many native English speakers, as well as English learners, have trouble knowing when to use which – it’s or its.

“It’s” means “it has” or “it is”
It’s been a great day! (It has)
It’s been good talking to you. (It has)
It’s 11:26pm. (It is)
It’s Saturday, March 20th. (It is)
It’s wonderful to see you. (It is)

“Its” is the possessive of it.
The Honda is known for its reliability.
I ate some gumbo yesterday. I found its taste to be quite good!

Basically, if you are not sure which to use, see if you can substitute “it is” or “it has” in place of “it’s/its” and if it works, then it should be “it’s”. If it doesn’t, then it should be “its”.

16 Responses on “It’s vs. Its”

  1. Nice post. I was wondering about that the other day. Now all I have to do is go back and fix 5 mistakes of using its in the wrong place on my website.

  2. Yvonne says:

    Funny – I don’t think they ever taught us this rule in school. My mom was a teacher and she always taught me little things like these. Don’t feel bad, you are not alone!

  3. Aelphaeis says:

    WHAT!? MANY NATIVE ENGLISH SPEAKERS have trouble with this!? Seriously!? Well, I find that hard to believe, teacher, because it’s just way too simple. I don’t at all mean to brag or anything about what little knowledge I may have, but I have never ever had any trouble whatsoever with this. I mean, the apostrophe in “it’s” CLEARLY indicates (or at least to me it does) a contraction, therefore it’s a different word altogether, well, two words, actually. And the other one is just the possessive, so they have two obviously distinct meanings. I seriously can’t fathom how NATIVE speakers can actually have trouble with something like this. English learners like myself I can TOTALLY understand…but NATIVES!? o_O Oh well, I guess it’s like I said some time ago, most people don’t even care whether they write properly or not, right?

    BTW, if I had any mistakes on the above paragraph please do let me know lol. I’m not even sure haha.

    And thanks for posting this!

  4. Yvonne says:

    LOL, You cracked me up with that comment. I think the problem for English speakers is that we are not taught it in school. Then we make the mistake over and over for years. Then, it’s hard to break the habit. Also, someone has to tell the person that they are doing it wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this as well: {its’}. Another phrase that native speakers make mistakes with is ‘a lot’. So many people write it as ‘alot’. But, that’s a whole other story.

    Your post was written very well! I’m very impressed as always!

  5. Aelphaeis says:

    LOL it’s always good to hear someone laughs with your comments haha 🙂

    You’re…not taught in school? How come? Don’t they teach English grammar at U.S. schools? That’s really weird.

    I actually have never seen {its’}, not even once…and I’m glad I haven’t LOL. So they also say “alot”? Man, what’s wrong with people!? Can’t they even recognize two words??? Haha. Like I said, I CAN’T believe native English speakers make mistakes like that. I’m the one impressed now! LOL.

    And thanks again! 🙂

  6. Yvonne says:

    They do teach English grammar in school, but in my experience they don’t go into a lot of detail and you don’t learn any grammar after about 6th or 7th grade.

    Oh the stories I could tell you… 😉
    Yvonne

  7. Ellie says:

    Hi my lovely teacher, Yvonne :), I have a question today.
    My dog wagged its (= my dog’s) tail at me.
    My dog wagged the tail at me.
    These are right and the same meaning?

  8. Yvonne says:

    My dog wagged his tail is more simliar to My dog wagged its tail.

    My dog wagged the tail doesn’t sound right to me. The tail could be anyone’s tail and he can’t hold anything, so it doesn’t make as much sense. I’d use one of the above two – his or its.

    I hope this helps. 🙂 Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  9. Ellie says:

    I get it! It’s clear!
    I rarely use the word its. I’ll practice more with its from now on. 🙂
    Thank you for your help, Yvonne. Have a nice day!

  10. Yvonne says:

    I forgot to say, if the dog is a girl, then it would be: The dog wagged her tail. 🙂
    Yes, try to use its more. I use it often, but his/her works perfect here as well.

  11. Ellie says:

    May I ask you a question one more?

    When I want to know the name of the dog that someone (my friend or neighbor) has, I’ll say, “What’s your dog’s name?,” or if I know the dog is either a boy or a girl, I’ll say, “What’s his/her name?”

    Then, I can say, “What’s its name?” also, but I feel “its name” sounds not so polite and it makes the person fell so bad. Is it all right to say that?

    Umm… hard to describe it… 😀

  12. Ellie says:

    the person fell so bad = the person feel so bad
    Sorry!

  13. Yvonne says:

    You are right, some dog lovers may get offended with “its name”. Sometimes I guess on the sex and say ‘her name’ or ‘his name’, but I’m always wrong. They just correct me. It’s not a big deal. 🙂 I think the safest thing to say is “What is your dog’s name?” But, any of them are fine! 🙂

  14. Yvonne says:

    “the person feels so bad”

    Thanks so much for your comments!

  15. Ellie says:

    I’m glad you always understand what I mean, and now I know how I use them! Really clear!! Thanks a million, Yvonne! 🙂

    I didn’t pay attention, “feels.” Stupid me! Hahaha…

  16. Yvonne says:

    You are doing great! Don’t worry at all. We all make typos. 🙂

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