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There’s some confusion out there about it’s and its. Quite a lot of people, some who are otherwise decent writers, make mistakes over these two. Not you though – you’re better than that (after you’ve read this post anyway).

To understand the problem and solution, you should know that the words ‘my, your, his, her, our, their and its (as in their clothes, its engine)’ are possessive adjectives while ‘mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs and its (as in, they’re mine, they’re ours)’ are possessive pronouns. You might also want to go and check the post ‘Possessive Apostrophes’, just so you’re up to speed on ‘s and its usage…

So I’ll assume you’ve been and checked that, or you were up on it in the first place, and now you’re ready to pick this particular nit with some confidence.

We’ll start with ‘it’s’. It’s always stands for it is. The apostrophe is there because of the omission. Some examples? Okay: It’s cold, mummy. It’s a Wonderful Life. What’s that? It’s a Christmas film starring Jimmy Stewart. It’s worth watching.

Its is a possessive pronoun. It’s a pronoun because it stands in for a noun, and possessive because it shows that ‘it’ owns something. Although the ‘s’ is there to show possession, you don’t use an apostrophe. Examples: The cat is looking for its kittens, the shop is closed and its shutters are down etc.

Confusion arises because ‘its’ shows possession, but unlike regular nouns pronouns don’t take possessive apostrophes. If you’re tempted to write our’s, their’s, her’s or (unless you mean ‘it is’) it’s, don’t – it’s wrong. But it doesn’t make sense, you protest! Doesn’t matter, just remember that possessive pronouns don’t need apostrophes. Just get over it or – wait for it –get over its! Thank you.

 

Challenge

Add apostrophes to the following sentences about a cat.

Its a good job it leaves its mice outside. It makes a right mess when it comes in here trailing its muck everywhere. Its a wonder you don’t strangle it!

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