I am really tired of seeing “It’s” get misused.   With the apostrophe, “it’s” is the contraction of “it is.”  If you are trying to talk about the possession of “it” then the word you want is “its” without the apostrophe.

Yes, the English language is a little tricky here, but this isn’t rocket science.  I’m blown away at how many people get this wrong.  You can even see that “It’s” was misused on the cover of the last issue of Dr. Dobb’s Journal. (If you don’t know, it should have been, “Has Its Ship Come In?”).

I remember being in grade school and our English teacher trying to explain the difference between It’s and Its.  She didn’t explain it very well.  In fact, her explanation was, “the apostrophe is removed from one of them so that the words aren’t confused with one another.”  Okay, that’s not why.  If the English language tried to disambiguate words that are spelled the same but have different meanings, the dictionary size would likely double.  That’s one of the curses of the English language actually, is the reuse of words for different meanings.

  • I mean, he’s really mean.
  • Did you see him dash past that dash in the past?
  • Every year, I long for a long vacation at Christmastime.
  • Do you mind if I try to read your mind?
  • In light of the burnt out light, I’m going to tap the tap and pound a pound of beer.

So, what is the real reason that Its (possessive) doesn’t have an apostrophe?  It’s actually pretty simple.  Let’s look at the list of possessive pronouns:

  • Mine
  • Ours
  • Yours
  • His
  • Hers
  • Its
  • Theirs
  • Whose

Notice that none of them have apostrophes.  They don’t need apostrophes because the ending “s” is part of the word itself, and the word defines possession on its own.  As this page explains, “remember that his takes no apostrophe.  In the same way, neither do any of the other forms.”

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