I love language. Even more so, I love the English language. The English language is horrendous in comparison to other languages; often there are more exceptions than cases that fit the rule. Because of this, I love learning little tips and tricks to getting it right. And more than that, I hate getting it wrong. (Damn girl, you have an English degree – pull yourself together!)
It’s vs. its. This one caused me heartache (yes, actual heartache…) in my first year of university when I got my first essay back covered in red pen. At the top of the page, my lecturer had written “GRAMMAR” and I was mortified. Just to be clear, I did an English degree so it’s pretty reasonable to be upset that I’d got something so simple so wrong. The mistake that I’d made the entire way through, as you may have already guessed, was writing “it’s” instead of “its”.
Up to this point in my life, I’d been taught that apostrophes were used for contractions (like can’t and don’t) and for possessives (like Ellen’s or Mum’s). But that’s not entirely true.
When it comes to possessives, there some cases where you don’t use the apostrophe – for example its. Turns out, you don’t stick an apostrophe in there.
So here’s my quick rule for it’s or its to help you decide if you need an apostrophe or not:
If you can replace it with “it is” use “it’s”.
If you can replace it with “his” use “its”.
So there you go. If you’re as obsessive about this stuff as I am, you’ll never have to do that awkward “I don’t know the correct way to do this so I’ll just avoid the word all together” thing that happens all too often. Not with it’s and its anyway…