I is for Its (or is it It’s?)

This is a continuation of the A-Z blog challenge.  Click here to see the list of all 1935 participants!

“It’s a beautiful ocean and I’m going to play in its waves!”

Two of the most widely confused written words are in the above sentence: it’s and its. I see the words mixed-up a lot when I beta read. Most of the time, it’s simply a mistake the writer didn’t catch. Sometimes, though, people don’t know the difference between the two. I’d like to try and help clear up the confusion.

What is the difference between it’s and its? It’s simple:

It’s is the contraction for “It is” or “It has”.

Its” shows possession, and always modifies the primary noun in the sentence so you don’t have to repeat it.

For example:

IT’S (It is):

“It’s raining again.” = “It is raining again.”
“It’s a silly play.” = “It is a silly play.”
“It’s my favorite sandwich.” – “It is my favorite sandwich.”

ITS (possessive):

“The cat licked its paw.”
“Its petals fell to the ground.”
“I haven’t seen its kind in many years.”

Like ‘yours’, ‘ours’, ‘his’ and ‘hers’, an apostrophe is not needed to show possession.

Easy, right?  Test your skills below.


1.  I can’t believe its/it’s so cold in here!

2.  Its/It’s a beautiful day!

3.  The penguin is known for its/it’s inability to fly.

4.  The book fell apart, its/it’s spine broken.

5.  The university is very proud of its/it’s reputation.

6.  Its/It’s inconceivable!


1.  it’s

2.  It’s

3.  its

4.  its

5.  its

6.  It’s

How many did you get right?

Just remember, if you can say ‘it is’ in the sentence, use “it’s”. If you can’t, use “its”

Now that you know the difference between your ‘itses’ ( 🙂 ), go check your MS before you send it out to an agent or publisher! They’ll be happy you took the extra time.

17 thoughts on “I is for Its (or is it It’s?)

  1. You’ve presented the difference between ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ very well. I hope more people will read it and ‘get’ it. When I see these kinds of mistakes on FB and other social media I bite my tongue. It could just be a typo in the frenzy to send off a message in a millisecond, but more often than not it is simply not knowing the difference. When I see this error on advertising or informational posters I wonder if it’s been proofread and, if it has, how could 2 people not notice the mistake? I’ve even seen its/it’s used incorrectly on school notice boards and in school bulletins. That doesn’t present a very good example to students, does it? Thanks for clearing it up. 🙂


    1. I’m glad you liked the post, my dear. 🙂 I aim to please. I have made the mistake when typing in a hurry. I also sometimes leave out letters or say the wrong word entirely when in a hurry (and when answering posts sometimes). It’s one of those words, though, that is easy to get mixed up because so many people are used to using an apostrophe to show possession. Just another silly quirk of the English language.

      Thanks for stopping by! Always happy to have you.


  2. Hi Jenny
    Understanding the difference between its and it’s is ver hard for a lot of people. People know that you use ‘s for possession: John’s book, the dog’s bone, the cat’s tail and so on. ‘Its’ shows possession (its bone, its tail), so the thinking is that there must be an apostrophe. But there isn’t.
    English is such a difficult language to learn, even for native speakers!


  3. Great post Jenny! Your and you’re is my worst typo. I know the difference but I always read them the same and never catch the typo. 🙂


    1. and let’s not forget there and their, to, too and two, lay, lie, lied, laid…(i HATE that one). That’s why English is the hardest language to learn. We’re weird.


  4. Wow! that was fun.. 🙂 Great post, Jenny. I hear you on the annoyance of the word mix up’s.. I am sure in writing, we are guilty of messing up once in a while.. I go back for an edit and see “hour” for “our” and I’m like, “really, Darlene?”

    Loved this post.


    1. oh my gosh, I do that, too! We’re all guilty of typos but some of them make us scratch our own heads and think “what the heck was I thinking?”

      Thanks for dropping by!


  5. Icompletely know this one concretely, but the wrong one does tend to shoot out of my fingers when I am deep into a character or writing an exciting scene. I don’t always catch it in editing, and feel dumb when someone points it out.


  6. The phrase “it is” helps me keep them straight. Whenever I question which one it should be I repeat my sentence and insert the phrase. If it sounds right, I use “it’s.” 🙂

    p.s. I love the new layout – it’s gorgeous!


  7. Hello, Jenny! It/it’s is a grammar mistake many people make. Sometimes it’s probably a typo, but many people get the meanings confused all the time, too. Great lesson! I have a grammar post planned for I day, too: the correct use of personal pronoun I!

    Hope you had a great weekend and happy A to Z!!


    1. Oh, I will pop over. That is such a pet peeve of mine, people saying something like “Me and Carol went to the store.” I just want to shake them and say “It’s Carol and I!” LOL. Funny how some things make us cringe when we hear them. It’s like people putting ‘at’ at the end of a sentence. “Where’s it at?”

      *brrrrrrrr* Argh! 🙂 🙂


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