Its vs It’s and Possessives

We’re going back to basics this week with its vs it’s because it’s always nice to review something, isn’t it? Many native speakers confuse these, as well! Yes, it’s true that they are both pronounced the same, but if you are writing and you confuse its vs it’s, it’s usually noticed right away and can be embarrassing!


How do you show that something is in the possessive (is owned by someone or something else) form? It’s quite easy, but there are a few things that can be a little tricky. Don’t worry, we have a thorough (detailed) review for you below!


How to Put Something in the Possessive Form


What does it mean if something is in the ‘possessive’ form? This is when one object is owned by or belongs to another.


Making a possessive form, for the most part, is pretty easy. If you want to talk about the ball that John owns / has, you say, “John’s ball” by putting an apostrophe and s at the end of the word. Or a few other examples, “Erin’s book”, “The library’s books”, “Crystal’s business.” Simple, right?


Here are a few possessive forms for you to practice:


Show that the words in the first column are owned by those in the second column:


OWNED (Object)                   OWNER (Subject) 


inhabitants                           The city


customer                               Netflix


essay                                      The student


treat                                       The dog


pencil                                     The teacher





Now try creating new, longer sentences as well!


Answers: The city’s inhabitants, Netflix’s customers, the dog’s treat, the teacher’s pencil.

Its vs It’s


One of the most common mistakes I see in writing, advertising, in emails, and everywhere you can imagine!, is writers not knowing the difference between its vs it’s. It’s such a small detail, perhaps, that one apostrophe, but there is really no great excuse (reason) for leaving it out or adding it unnecessarily (without need)- especially when the writers are supposed to be (should, are thought to be) professionals!


You would think that with normal rules for possession, simply adding ‘s to a noun, that it’s would be the possessive form of ‘it’. That, however, is not actually the case!


Its is actually in the possessive form, while it’s is a contraction of either it is or it has.


Still not sure which one form to use? Take the sentence and try substituting (replacing, putting in place) it is or it has in your sentence. Or, does it make sense for the possessive its? This is an easy way to work around the problem to see if it’s correct!  In this last sentence, if you replace the it’s with it is, it makes the sentence correct.  Its (the possessive form) wouldn’t make any sense in this case.




A side note about apostrophes: apostrophes always replace letters that are missing. For example, if you write “they’re” which is the contracted form of “they are”, the apostrophe shows that the a from are is missing. The same is true for it’s. Perhaps we’ll cover this in a future blog!


There’s no need to be afraid of using possessives in your writing or speech. They’re easy as pie! Check out Grammar Girl’s explanation of possessives, too.


Looking for other writing tips? Read our past blogs about common abbreviations, the difference between who and whom, and affect vs effect!





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Erin Duffin lives in Berlin, is an English teacher,  yoga instructor, and must confess- even finds an extra apostrophe in her its, too, sometimes! 

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