It’s a real shame so many people confuse “it’s” and “its”. One is a possessive determiner and the other is a simple contraction. But according to Grammarly’s Top 30 Commonly Confused Words in English these aren’t as simple as they may seem. I’ve already written about the mix-up I have the most trouble remembering – affect vs. effect. This is also included in the Top 30 words but is much harder for me to remember! Let me make “it’s” vs “its” easier for you with a couple of explanations and examples!

And also proper grammar.

It Is Alive, or It’s Alive!

“It’s”, as in “it is” or “it has”. I remember this because of the common contraction of other, similar, words. “He’s” or “he is” and “she’s” or “she is” are the same contraction as “it’s”, only with people. I replace “it’s” in a sentence with “he’s” to see if “it’s” works in whatever sentence I am creating (disregarding that “he’s” refers exclusively to male peoples and characteristics which is for another article).

Let’s say we want to express that Frankenstein’s Monster was alive after the lightning experiment. Would you say “Its alive!” or “It’s alive!”? Let’s try it my way: is it “He is alive” or “hes alive”? Substituting “he’s” makes this very easy, as “he’s” means “he is” and is therefore the correct answer. Plus, “hes” isn’t even a real word which makes that solution easy! And always say “it is” when you say or write “it’s” – the words notated without a contraction really help hammer home that it’s, or it is, an important contraction to remember. Just remember Herr Frankenstein and his exclamation for his creation: It’s Alive!

Proper grammar is important for monster revival.

The Monster’s Brain – Its Brain

Now “its” is a possessive determiner, meaning that ”its” says that something belongs to or refers to something. For example, if you wanted to say the Monster’s murderous brain, you would say “its murderous brain”. A way to remember “its” is possessive is to replace it with a singular possessive noun. A singular possessive noun is a singular noun, like “Monster” that you make possessive by adding apostrophe “s”.

Let’s continue with the Monster example. If you wanted to express that the Monster’s escape was unsuccessful, would you say “its escape was foiled” or “it’s escape was foiled”? Let’s try my way and replace “its” with “Monster”. “The Monster’s escape was unsuccessful” or “The Monster is escape was unsuccessful”? “The Monster’s” is correct because it shows the experiement’s possession over the escape, functioning the same way as “its”. But be careful, when replacing “its” with a singular possessive noun make sure you don’t confuse “it is” with “its”!

He’s trying his best but just can’t escape.

The quick run down of these two rules are as follows. Try replacing “it’s” with “he’s” and train yourself to always say “it is” when you see “it’s”. For “its”, the possessive determiner, replace with a singular possessive noun like “Monster” to see if “its” work – for example, “the Monster’s somber end” also works as “its somber end”.

Katherine Reynolds is the Business Solutions Coordinator for Bardwrite N.A. and the Social Media Coordinator for Docforce. She has a passion for helping people and organization and enjoys working closely with others. If she isn’t in the office or at home reading and playing with her dogs, she’s out in the boonies hiking.

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