“It’s” and “Its” Bits

Writers need certain tools at hand and a good command of grammar is one of the most useful. My teachers and my mother drilled into me a pretty fair knowledge of grammar and spelling. Not perfect, mind you, but good enough that I know when a word doesn’t just look right. Immediately I type a couple of variations into my word processor and see what it tells me. I still have to use my brain, though, as the computer likes to tell me American spellings are right and my Canadian ones are wrong. (Oh, why don’t we get together on that?)

Today my thoughts are on the use of it’s or its. The English world seems to have fallen in love with apostrophes as their use is more prevalent than wasps at a beer can. Those little marks have just as much sting, too. Using or not using the apostrophe totally changes the meaning of words. For today we’ll just concentrate on when to use the apostrophe with its (or it’s).

So. Here it is. THE RULE: (in 3 parts)
1. It’s means it is and is a contraction for it is. Period. If you don’t mean it is, don’t use an apostrophe.
2. Its is a possessive word like his and her. There is no apostrophe with his or her; likewise there is none with the possessive its. For example, his car, her car, its bone. NEVER an apostrophe.
3. There is NO such word as its’. Never, nada, nein.

There you have it, folks. It’s going to be great to see how I set the world on its ear with this language lesson. Maybe next I’ll carry around a pail of paint and remove all the incorrect apostrophes I find.

Oh, but then I’ll never finish my work-in-progress.

Elaine Cougler

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8 thoughts on ““It’s” and “Its” Bits

  1. Elaine, I am guilty of letting it’s and its get the best of me, and have to look it up frequently (at least I’m cognizant of the mistake). Now, after reading your definition with his and her, I have a new trick for remembering: He and she (his and her) don’t carry apostrophes so neither does it. Possession its. No apostrophe.

    (Please don’t tell me I’ve got it mixed up again…)

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  2. Thank you, Patricia. Bells, whistles and firecrackers to you, too, on this 4th. We Canadians had our fireworks on July 1 and driving home from my sister’s place, my husband and I pulled to the side of the road to watch the fabulous display over the trees of our city. I love to celebrate!

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  3. My spell checker frequently gets this confused, so then I am confused. I think it just needs a little Canadian help! And btw I too use some Canadian spellings, although I think its from reading too much English Lit! I now have my spell checker set to take grey instead of gray!

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  4. Hi Jessica! Oh, it’s too funny. Did you notice your ‘its’? I think you mean ‘it’s’. Never mind. I know commenting is sometimes done on the fly and once those errors are posted you can’t take them back. Kind of like nasty words, isn’t it?

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