Instructional Materials for Craig White's Literature Courses





Two options for spelling the word or words that sound like /ITS/:


  • It’s

  • its


Simplest way to tell the difference:

  • It’s is always a contraction for “It is”—as in “It’s great!” This contraction is the only case in which the vocalization /ITS/ is spelled with an apostrophe.

  • Its is the possessive pronoun form of it, as in “That dog has lost its master.” (The word "its" sounds the same as above but can't mean "it is.")


Why do people automatically (but incorrectly) add an apostrophe to the possessive pronoun its?


Possessive forms like “the boat’s rudder” or “Janice’s project” use apostrophes—why not its?


The answer:


  • “it” is a pronoun, like he, you, me, etc.

  • Possessive pronouns—my, your, his, her, hers, etc.—don’t use apostrophes. Neither does its.

So /ITS/ will never be spelled “it’s” unless it is a contraction for “it is” . . . . If you remember that, you can avoid the error.)




How I learned this rule as a kid in the mid-20th century . . .

Who's winning the race?

What's the hardest part of a duck?

It's Bill! Its Bill!