Is it its or it’s?

This causes much confusion, even among some top writers.

Which is correct?

it’s – this can mean only two things: ‘it is’ and ‘it has’

  • It’s twenty-five to three. It’s been raining.

its – this can mean only one thing: the neutral possessive – something which indicates belonging to

  • This boat and its sails are painted red.

The confusion among English language speakers arises because we assume that we must have an apostrophe when talking of something belonging to someone or something. However, this is not always true.

It is when we use names of things that we add an apostrophe: Sarah’s book.

However, the word ‘its’ falls in the following grammatical group of words: my, your, his/her/its, our, your, their. As you can see, not one of these words uses an apostrophe, but they are still possessive.

Examples:

Easy rule: when you see ‘it’s’, say it in full, to check whether it is right.

  • The computer and it’s screen.
  • check 1: The computer and it is screen. WRONG
  • check 2: The computer and it has screen. WRONG

So, this must be: The computer and its screen.

  • You would not write: ‘Jon and hi’s screen.’
  • Therefore, you must not write: ‘The computer and it’s screen.’

Correct version: The computer and its screen.