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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

It's v. Its

It's v. Its

Do you ever find yourself caught between the two? Wrestling with which one applies? Confused about what each one means? Wondering if the apostrophe-s signifies possession or contraction? Fret no more. The quick explanations and the dirty examples follow:

It's is a contraction of either "it is" or "it has." The apostrophe indicates that letters have been left out to form a contraction with the two words. The pronoun "it" refers to an object, animal, idea, place; in other words, anything other than a human.
     For example:
          The pig wallowed in the foul-smelling mud that covered the entire sty in a thick slurry. It's happy to live in such swell squalor.

Its is a possessive pronoun. This pronoun indicates that the object, animal, place, idea (essentially any noun that is not human) to which it refers owns something else in the sentence.
     For example:
          The sweet smell of its pigpen denied the distant ringing of the farmer's dinner bell. The pig never dreamed it might one day sprawl upon the big-house table.



Usage of these words is so understandably easy to confuse. When in doubt, insert "it is" or "it has" into the sentence in place of its or it's. If the sentence makes sense, then use the contraction, it's. If the sentence does not make sense, then the possessive pronoun, its, is what you're after.

It's a great day to leave a comment. If you have other helpful tips or suggestions in regard to its and it's, do tell.

Tomorrow: Jargon

This post is brought to you by the April A to Z Blog Challenge. Check back all through April for daily discussions of writing conventions.

16 comments:

Marcie said...

There is much to learn from your posts especially if you are not a native! I am visiting from the A-Z blog challenge.

Karen Walker said...

I really have to pay attention when proofreading to catch this one. I know the difference, but when I'm writing and the words are flowing, I can miss this easily. Thanks.
Karen

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

That's the test I apply. It's the opposite of the noun possessiv, so is often used incorrectly.

Play off the Page

T'Laina said...

I think a lot of people get confused because, for instance - a dog's ball - would have an apostrophe. So possessive pronouns, as they already indicate possession, do not need one? (I never knew this, so thank you - I have gone on to do more research on the subject because if this post!)

- T'Laina (vibrant-oxymoron.blogspot.com)

Roza M said...

This is one of my many enemies in grammar. =)

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Thank you for visiting my blog, and for signing on as a follower. I figured I'd come check out your blog, too, and am delighted to meet not only a fellow Georgian, but a fellow stickler for proper grammar and spelling, as well. Woo HOO! Count me in as your newest follower.

kelworthfiles said...

Yeah, that's a tricky one. MS Word frequently flags it as wrong when I'm actually using it right, which doesn't help.

Thanks!

Sonia Lal said...

I make this accident lots of times. Or when the ipod spell checker decides to insert a ' when I don't one.


Sonia Lal, A to Z challenge

Laura Eno said...

I use the "it is" test. It's very annoying when Word tells me I'm wrong.

Laura
A to Z of Immortals, Myths & Legends

C.S.M. said...

Oooooohhhhh this has been very helpful! I never get it right. Thank you!

DL Hammons said...

I struggle with that from time to time, but then I learned to substitute IT IS to see if that works and if it did I was good to go! :)

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

'It's' never bothers me for some reason but there are a bazillion other grammatical thing-a-ma-jigs that drive me snakey. So I'm definitely FAR from perfect. Still, when I see writers use the wrong 'its' I have three fits! Not its, fits!

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

'It's' never bothers me for some reason but there are a bazillion other grammatical thing-a-ma-jigs that drive me snakey. So I'm definitely FAR from perfect. Still, when I see writers use the wrong 'its' I have three fits! Not its, fits!

E.D. said...

Good point and pointers. The "it is" test is a sure one.

William Kendall said...

I often catch this one, right or wrong, when I'm editing something.

Jo said...

This is one I have problems with, sometimes programmes will change it for you, but I can only remember the rules of possession, never remember the rest of it.

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