Many students get like words confused with each other. After all, they sound the same and are basically written the same. Unfortunately, its is possessive and it’s is a contraction for it is or it has. The two words mean completely different things. Understanding this basic tenet of grammar can help your students write better sentences, paragraphs and essays.
1. When To Use
Knowing when to use its versus it’s is a simple way to improve your writing. When you need to show possession or ownership, its is the word to use when the pronoun is it or a non-gender noun. In contrast, it’s forms a contraction and should not be used to show ownership. While contractions tighten up your writing and allow for an informal tone to the writing, understanding how to use them is crucial to accurately communicate your message.
2. Some Simple Examples
Example 1: The horse flicked its tail at the annoying fly. In this example, the tail belongs to the horse requiring the possessive form its. Example 2: The plane began to plummet because its wing was on fire. The wing is part of the plane and thus requires the possessive form of it. Example 3: It’s been ages. In this example, the contraction it has forms it’s so it needs the apostrophe. Example 4: It’s going to be cold today. It’s forms the contraction of it is in this example.
3. Purpose of Apostrophes
Apostrophes fill in the place of missing letters to form contractions and mark possessions in certain circumstances. When you combine two words together, you form a contraction when you eliminate some of the letters. Contractions are popular ways to add a creative flair, an informal tone or to shorten text. Common contractions involve a verb and not for a negative sentence such as “I didn’t do it.” Other common contractions involve adding pronouns with simple verbs such as is, am, has and have. “I’m going to the mall” or “I’ve sent the email” are some examples. Apostrophes also mark possession for plural possessors, singular possessors that end in -z or -s and when the possessor is more than one word such as John’s dog.
4. Simple Memory Tips
Remembering whether you need that apostrophe or not can sometimes be difficult. Using a few simple tricks can take the guesswork out of whether to use its or it’s. Simple possessives like its, yours and ours don’t require an apostrophe. While that’s a simple rule to keep in mind, it may not work for everyone. Another thing to do is to read the sentence without the contraction. If it makes sense for it’s to be it is or it has, then you should use it’s. If it doesn’t, then its may be the correct form to use. If you are showing possession or ownership of something, its is correct not it’s.
5. Commonly Confused Words
Many people routinely mix up its and it’s. Learning to distinguish the two improves your writing and helps you create a clear message to the intended recipient. Homophones can trick even the most astute grammarian. But with a little guidance, you can figure out the right one to use every time.