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English Grammar Tips - Its versus It's

Updated on February 4, 2010

Getting Writing Right

When you are a writer, getting the right words matters, a lot; grammar matters too. In fact, getting the right kind of grammar, or style, like AP Style, matters too. To everyone else, though, if it is spelled right, then it has been proofread, and nothing is more annoying than someone pointing out your grammar errors.

So, what is a writer to do when he doesn't want to be the guy going around correcting other people's grammar, but it is starting to drive him crazy that the boss can't seem to master the difference between their and there?

He does what any writer with an Internet connection would do. He writes webpages for money.

Its vs It's

When it comes to grammar, the one thing it seems everyone has trouble figuring out at one time or another is the difference between it's and its.

One of them means "it is" and the other means "belonging to it." So, which is which?

The easy way to remember how to distinguish between the two kinds of it plus s is to remember that in grammatically correct English, letters can never be missing from words without properly notifying the reader of the text that letters are missing. For example, if you were writing a quote or dialog in which the speaker used slang that resulted in letters missing from the "real" word, then you would use an apostrophe to indicate that.

The most common instance of this is dropping the g or the ing from the end of words. For example, if someone were to say that they were chilling, they might drop the g from the end of the word. In this case chillin' is what they said, and the apostrophe marks the missing letters.

The grammatically correct version of this is contractions. The words can't, wouldn't, and let's are all examples of contractions. In each instance, the word is a substitute for two words. In this case, cannot (we'll cover that one later), would not, and let us. Depending upon which version you are using, these will also set off your Microsoft Word grammar checker.

It's Its

Once you know the rule, it's actually pretty easy to know which it+s you need.

If you mean it is, then you need it's, because you are leaving out letters and must use an apostrophe. By process of elimination, if you do not mean it is, then you should use its.

To summarize:

It's = It Is

Its = Belongs to it.

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