Its vs. It’s

One of the most common grammatical errors I run across when editing manuscripts is the misuse of its/it’s. They are easy to confuse, and most people do not even realize there is a difference because the its/it’s differentiation is not an issue stressed in most grade schools. But I am here to tell you there is a difference, and it is easy to know when to use the word or the conjunction once you understand what they each mean.

 Its is a adjective. It is used to describe a noun.

Examples:  Johnny knocked his cup onto its side.

                               Alice bought the necklace because she liked its color.

It’s is a contraction. It replaces “it is” in a sentence.

Example: It’s (it is) the yellow one.

                    Bring a blanket, it’s (it is) cold outside.

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5 thoughts on “Its vs. It’s

  1. Its is a possessive adjective. Pronouns replace nouns, whereas adjectives describe them. In your example sentence, “its” modifies the noun “side” which makes its an adjective, not a pronoun.

    It’s is a contraction. Conjunctions join two like parts of speech together (e.g., and, but, or, so, because, etc). Contractions are formed by putting two words together, like it’s you’re, they’re, can’t, don’t, etc.

  2. Well, its can be possessive pronoun, but only if it completely replaces the noun. In your example, its does not replace the noun. Its describes “side” (or “color”). This makes its an adjective rather than a pronoun.

    • Well, thank you for taking the time to explain. I come from Georgia’s public school system, and I have to admit that they weren’t the best. My grammar is slowly improving.

  3. Most of the public school systems in the US aren’t the best when it comes to teaching grammar (mine wasn’t, either). I had a professor in grad school who made us diagram sentences so that we could understand the parts of speech and the function of each word in a sentence. There is a difference between having good grammar and having a lot of grammatical knowledge. My job as an English language teacher means I need both, but most native speakers lack the grammatical knowledge (e.g., why certain words and sentences are grammatical or parts of speech) even though their grammar is quite good. =)

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