The Farlex Grammar Book > English Spelling and Pronunciation > Common Mistakes and Commonly Confused Words > it’s vs. its
it’s vs. its
What is the difference between it’s and its?
One of the most common spelling mistakes in all of English is to use an apostrophe with the word its when we want to indicate possession, or to omit the apostrophe when writing a contraction of it is or it has.
We usually express possession in writing by adding ’s to the end of a noun, as in Mary’s, John’s, the council’s, the dog’s, etc. (As a matter of fact, this possessive ’s is technically a contraction as well, stemming from the Old English suffix “-es”; however, this “-es” ending fell out of use, and we generally think of the possessive ’s as a distinct syntactic and grammatical construct of its own.)
Curiously, the possessive form for the personal pronoun it does not have an apostrophe, just an S—its. However, the possessive form was originally spelled it’s, with the apostrophe. This was dropped around the 1800s, most likely due to the established prevalence of the contraction of it is.
In any case, we can only use ’s with it when it’s is a contraction of it is or it has. If we write its, we are indicating gender-neutral possession for an object, animal, group, etc.
Let’s look at a few examples just to see the difference more clearly:
- “I’m really glad it’s (it is) starting to get warmer; I hate the wintertime!”
- “I’m really glad its starting to get warmer; I hate the wintertime!”
- “It’s (it has) been a long time since I last saw you.”
- “Its been a long time since I last saw you.”
- “The corporation recently revised its hiring policy (possession of hiring policy).”
- “The corporation recently revised it’s hiring policy.”
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