Is It It's or Its?

Clarifying confusing homonyms

Let's start with it. Let's get it out of the way.

The pronoun it can stand in for inanimate subjects or objects as well as act as a "surrogate" subject when there would otherwise be none:

It is a very strange situation.

It isn't the right cap for the bottle.

Among major world languages, the use of a "surrogate subject" is rare and rather unique to English. It isn't necessary in many languages.

Native English speakers don't have any difficulty knowing when to use it, and most English language learners master the use of it fairly easily.

However, the words it's and its confuse English language learners and native speakers almost equally.

These one-syllable word words sound exactly the same, but their meanings and uses are quite different.

It's means either it is or it has.

To know whether the 's means is or has, pay attention to the context.


It's easy. ( 's = is )

It's been too easy. ( 's = has )

Its, on the other hand, is a the possessive form for it much like his and her are the possessive forms of he and she.


I'm reading a book by Charles Dickens. Its title is Great Expectations.

I think I will buy that car because its price is so reasonable.

Because you wouldn't say, "It is title is Great Expectations" or "It is price is reasonable," you can be sure these are contexts which require its without an apostrophe.


Can it's and its be used in the same sentence? Of course, they can.


I like this game because it's easy to understand its instructions. ( 's = is )

This storm is going to be great for the garden. It's rained all day on its plants. ( 's = has )

Photo: @jeshoots

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