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Chapter 9 - “It’s” vs. “Its”

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“Should you take out it’s apostrophe?”

Hardly a day goes by without my seeing the use of its when the writer means it’s. Or it’s when the writer means its. The two expressions differ dramatically, and careful writers get it right.

It’s vs. Its - An Overview

In the Parts of Speech section of Grammar.com, you learned about pronouns. You learned about third-person pronouns. You learned that the word it is a third-person pronoun used to refer to an inanimate noun. Of course, if the noun is alive (or at one time was alive) and can be identified as male or female, you learned to use the personal pronouns he, she, his, her, and him.

It Is a Pronoun

In most forms of writing, we often use the word it to refer to a committee, an agency, a company, a team, or other sorts of singular nouns.

Just as the pronoun she has the possessive form her and just as he has the possessive form his, the pronoun it has a possessive form as well: its. Thus:

The machine lost its power. The agency published its decision in the newspaper.

Please note the difference in forming the possessive of the pronoun it. We simply add ‑s. We do not add “apostrophe -s” as we do when forming the possessives of nouns. Thus, it is incorrect (and a gross grammatical error) to use its as the possessive form of it.

It’s vs. Its - Wrong

The following uses of it’s are grammatically incorrect:

The machine lost it’s power. The agency published it’s decision in the newspaper.

It’s vs. Its - Right

The following uses of its are grammatically correct:

The machine lost its power. The agency published its decision in the newspaper.

Click page 2 below. 

It’s - A Contraction

The word it’s is not the possessive form of it. Instead, the word it’s serves as the contraction for the two words it is. Thus:

It’s a shame you can’t join us for dinner. (It is a shame . . . .)

It’s worth the price of admission. (It is worth the price . . . .)

It’s raining outside. (It is raining . . . .)

There isn’t a neat trick that will help you remember to remove the apostrophe from it’s when you mean the possessive its. You can try to remember that none of the personal pronouns forms its possessive with the “apostrophe -s”:

he . . . his/his she . . . her/hers they . . . their/theirs it . . . its/its

You can try to remember that some of the indefinite pronouns do form their possessives with “apostrophe –s”:

anyone . . . anyone’s anybody . . . anybody’s everyone . . . everyone’s everybody . . . everybody’s (and others)

Personal Pronouns and the Apostrophe

Not a single personal pronoun has an apostrophe in it.

Only in contractions will the apostrophe show up at all with any of the personal pronouns:

He’s coming to dinner. She’s the CEO of the company. Next week, they’re taking some time off. It’s going to be a wonderful day.

 

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