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Word Usage: Its and It's

Its and it's are homonyms—words that sound alike but have different meanings. Only the apostrophe sets these two words apart. Let's explore the difference between them in this usage tip.

Writing the contraction form it's instead of the possessive form its is a surprisingly easy error to make. One reason may be that an apostrophe with the letter s often indicates the possessive form of other words (eg, Barb's book).


its (adjective): possessive form of it

The drug was developed 10 years ago, but its full potential as a treatment for osteoporosis is not known.

it's (contraction): short form of "it is" or "it has"

The drug was developed 10 years ago, and it's now being used to treat osteoporosis.

Note: Contractions are usually not recommended for formal writing.

Quick Tip: Its vs It's

Speedy pencil: quick grammar tips
Each time that you write it's, take a moment to ask these questions:
  • Does it's = "it is"?

  • Does it's = "it has"?
  • If the answer is "no" to both questions, remove the apostrophe.

    Do you have a question or comment about this tip? Simply contact me online and I'll be pleased to help.

    More Homonyms

    Your computer spell-checker cannot match a correctly spelled word with its meaning! The best tool for homonyms is your dictionary.










    Want another example? See this usage tip on affect/effect.

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