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Language tip of the week: its or it’s?

In this weekly post, we bring more useful content from the Macmillan Dictionary to English language learners. These tips are based on areas of English (e.g. spelling, grammar, collocation, synonyms, etc) which learners often find difficult.

This week’s language tip helps with the difference between its and it’s.

People often confuse its and it’s.
The form its is the possessive form of ‘it’:
✗ Television has it’s own gods and heroes.
✓ Television has its own gods and heroes.
✗ Society should not punish it’s criminals but rehabilitate them.
✓ Society should not punish its criminals but rehabilitate them.
The form it’s is the short form of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’:
Its true that men are naturally stronger than women.
It’s true that men are naturally stronger than women.
Its been raining for hours.
It’s been raining for hours.
Its is used in all types of text, but the short form it’s is used mainly in speech and informal writing, not usually in formal writing:
It’s too bad that you can’t come with us.
It’s been a while since I saw her.

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Liz Potter

Liz Potter


  • I believe native English speakers tend to confuse its and it’s far more often than English language learners, (especially educated ones, or those learning the language “formally”, as they are aware of the grammatical and syntactical function of the words they use, whereas native speakers don’t need to).

  • Yes,this grammar point is very confusing for everybody. but I think it’s very important to not to think very much about rules and trust your visual memory.

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