It’s the problem with its

in Back to basics

Twice this week I’ve read printed marketing material where the writer has got their “its” and “it’s” confused. It got me thinking about common mistakes people make in their writing. For people like me, spotting one of those mistakes makes me a little bit sad (in all senses of the word, some might say).

So here is the first in an occasional series of Back to Basics blogs that I hope will help fix those mistakes and make people like me a little less sad.

It’s not that difficult when you know how – when to use it’s

There are only two places you use “it’s”. When you mean is “it is” or “it has”. For example:

  • It is very sunny today
  • It’s very sunny today

The apostrophe indicates that you’ve contracted two words.

Putting its in its place – when to use its

There is only one place you use its – when you don’t mean “it is”. For example:

  • The sun has got its hat on (hip hip hip hooray).

I think confusion creeps in because as well as using an apostrophe to indicate missing letters, we also use it to indicate possession. For example:

  • The sun’s hat has got pink stripes. (The hat that belongs to the sun has got pink stripes.)

But when you’re using “its”, the rule doesn’t apply. It would be wrong to say:

  • It’s hat has got pink stripes.

I can see the logic of the thinking (“its” possesses the noun it’s connected to, so I need to use an apostrophe), but it’s misplaced. Ah, the joys of English!

Are there any common grammar or spelling rules you’re unsure of? Get in touch and let me know.

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