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Deciding Between the Words Its and It's: What is the Proper Grammar Usage?

Updated on December 8, 2015

Before writing with the words its or it’s; I’ve noticed that I always pause and mentally question which to use correctly within the context of my text. Upon further investigation, I discovered the reasons behind my uncertainty concerning the proper usage of these two simple, yet unconventional words.

Discovery I: It’s is the contraction for it is or it has. However, anytime I see an apostrophe, I automatically think of the word as showing possession or ownership of something or someone. In the case of it’s, it is simply a contraction; nothing more. Therefore, some examples of the correct usage of it’s are:

It’s time to finish my homework and eat dinner.

It’s been brought to my attention that I may have to work overtime tonight.

Discovery II: Its is a pronoun that can be used as an object of an action or to show possession. Yes, its shows possession without an apostrophe. This word its is an exception to the rules of grammar concerning punctuation. Having made the distinction between its and it’s , here are some examples of the correct usage of it :

The cat was chasing its tail.

The Senator was proud of his bill. Its passage into law was a huge victory.

No matter how tempting it may be, never use an apostrophe with the word it when using it to show possession.

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    • AnnRandolph profile image

      AnnRandolph 5 years ago

      Hey, this is so timely. Spell check corrected my use of the word it's yesterday and I didn't know why. Thanks for the clarification.

    • trimar7 profile image

      trimar7 5 years ago from New York

      Oh this could get me started. I teach fourth graders and I expect them to mix up words, punctuation, etc., but when I continue to see such errors on the Internet - I get a bit concerned where our future is headed in language.

      Others that make me crazy: accept/except; then/than; to, too, two; their, there, they're, etc.

    • YvetteParker profile image
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      YvetteParker 5 years ago from AUGUSTA, GA

      Thanks so much Ann. I'm glad that you appreciate the clarification. I found it quite intriguing once I finally researched the difference. I frankly just got tired of second-guessing myself everytime I needed to use either word.

      Trimar, thank you so very much for your comments. I've had the joy and pleasure of teaching 4th grade as well. Another mixup that bothers me is your and you're. I can't count the number of times I've seen YOUR WELCOME instead of you're welcome!!

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