It's back-to-school time, and I've decided it's time for me to put my English teacher hat back on.
Today I'm going to explain a point of grammar that is troublesome for many people: the use of its and it's. I'm amazed at how many good writers have problems with this one. Lately there seems to be a veritable epidemic of wrong-its-itis. I've spent some time thinking about this, and I think I understand why this one gives us such trouble.
Good writers know that, in order to show that a word is possessive, you must add an apostrophe plus s to the word.
- Have you seen Jen's kitchen? (kitchen belongs to Jen)
- The cat is lying in the dog's bed. (bed belongs to the dog)
Pronoun Possessive form
See? There's really no rhyme or reason to how possessives of pronouns are formed; a writer must simply learn the possessive form.
Now here's the funny part. When reading the work of good writers, you never see errors with the possessive forms of you or her. No good writer ever writes "This package is your's" or "That bike is her's." Those pronouns don't give us any trouble. So why is its so tricky?
I think it's because the word it's is in fact a legitimate word. In fact, we use this word quite often. But the word it's is a contraction of the two words it is. That is the ONLY correct usage of the word it's. So the simple rule is that, if you're not sure whether to use its or it's, you should simply replace the its/it's in the sentence with the words it is. Do you really mean to say "it is"? If so, use it's. But if you mean to say that something belongs to it, then you must not use the apostrophe.
- The cat licked it's paw. (The cat licked it is paw??)
- The door came off it's hinges. (The door came off it is hinges??)
- Put everything in it's place. (Put everything in it is place??)
Do you see? These sentences are all wrong. All these sentences should use its, NOT it's.
So the rule is this:
It's means it is. That is all it can ever mean. Never use it unless you mean "it is."Its is the possessive form of it; it means belonging to it.
Here's a little quiz for you:
- (It's or Its) going to be a hot day.
- That team lost (it's or its) best player.
- (It's or Its) not a problem.
- The horse lost (it's or its) shoe.
Now, will you do me a favor? Will you leave me a comment and let me know what points of English grammar you'd like for me to explain? I really want this series to be helpful to you. If you have a specific question and you need an answer right away, email me at RichellaP (at) Gmail (dot) com; I'll be glad to answer.
If you're new here and you're wondering why on earth I'm talking about English grammar, you might want to read this post.