When to use “its”
The word “its” is used to denote the belonging to something, or to someone when the gender isn’t known.
- The chair had its leg broken off.
- The baby was sucking its fingers in her womb.
“Its” is the neuter version of “his”, “her” and “hers”. (I’ll write more about when to use “her”, “hers” and “herself” another time.)
It can get understandably confusing, because many people often mistake the apostrophe in “it’s” to denote possession or ownership. (“My husband’s knee injury” is an example of a possessive apostrophe.)
Ironically, even though the apostrophe is used everywhere else to denote ownership, possessive pronouns (its, theirs, hers, yours, ours, his) do NOT have an apostrophe.
When to use “it’s”
The word “it’s” is a contraction for “it is” or “it has”, just like “you’re” is a contraction of “you are”.
- It’s been a lovely day. (It has been a lovely day.)
- It’s a good thing we came early. (It is a good thing we came early.)
- Canturf… it’s fabulawn. (Canturf… it is fabulawn.)
“Its” vs “It’s”
A good way to remember which of the two to apply in any given context, is to fully understand how to use one of them.
For instance, if you remember that “it’s” means “it is”, they you can approach the following sentence and know which one to use:
The chihuahua licked _____ (its / it’s) lips when it saw the juicy bone
and thought to itself, “_____ (It / It’s) just too bad that Alsatian is in the way!”
Answer: its, It’s
As for me, I tell myself that “its” is used for gender-neutral things, and “it’s” means “it is”. It works every time.