Its vs. It’s, The Final Showdown

It’s really hard, sometimes, to know when to use its or it’s.

We’ve been taught, since elementary school, that whenever we want to indicate a possessive noun that an apostrophe must be used. For example,

This is Cindy’s car.

That is Brian’s computer.

What we often forget, however, is that when we want to use a pronoun the possessive form changes completely and we abandon the apostrophe rule. For example,

This is her car.

That is his computer.

We don’t write,

This is she’s car.

That is his’s computer.

The same applies for when we use the pronoun it. Take the following examples,

The airplane flies because its wings hold it aloft.

The airplane flies because it’s wings hold it aloft.

Which is the correct usage of its versus it’s in the above example? If you said that the first example is correct then you have chosen wisely. If you chose the second example, then you have chosen poorly (go watch Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade for that reference). The airplane has wings, it possesses wings; its wings hold it aloft. The airplane does not fly because it is wings.

Which brings us to when we use it’s in a sentence. This one is really easy: it’s is simply a contraction of the phrase it is. As in,

It is cold outside. It’s cold outside.

It is boring to read examples! It’s boring to read examples!

Reading examples sucks! It is really annoying! Reading examples sucks! It’s really annoying!

You get the idea. Until next time, Faithful Reader, eureka (somehow Stan Lee’s excelsior! sounds waaay better)!

Posted by: Paul Yim

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