its

adjective

ˈits How to pronounce its (audio)
əts
: of or relating to it or itself especially as possessor, agent, or object of an action
going to its kennel
a suite with its own private bathroom
its final enactment into law

Did you know?

Keeping It's and Its in Their Places

It's and its. They're ubiquitous, and ubiquitously confused.

In theory, the rule that distinguishes the two is simple: it's means it is or it has. The apostrophe signals that something has been removed:

It's raining. [=It is raining.]

It's been raining since last night. [=It has been raining since last night.]

Meanwhile, its means "of or relating to it or itself":

Let the medicine do its job.

The door shuts on its own.

But this rule wouldn't have worked a few centuries ago. When it appeared with an s in the early 1600s, an apostrophe was involved, and the resulting it's meant "of or relating to itself," as in "a house with it's own little garden."

This apostrophe form of the possessive remained extremely common throughout the 17th century and was used by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and Jane Austen. The version without the apostrophe only became dominant in the 18th century—probably because it's was taking on a new role, replacing the contraction 'tis.

It would be simpler, of course, if there were only one form in use, and there's an argument to be made for using it's in all cases; 's serves both purposes just fine for nouns. In the cat's bowl it signals possession, and in the cat's sleeping it represents the contracted verb is.

But in current established English there is indeed a distinction between the two, and we recommend that you follow it: use it's only when you mean it is or it has, and drop the apostrophe everywhere else.

Examples of its in a Sentence

the dog in its kennel The landscape is beautiful in its own unique way. Each region has its own customs. The company is hoping to increase its sales.

Word History

First Known Use

1577, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of its was in 1577

Cite this Entry

“Its.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/its. Accessed 16 Jun. 2024.

Kids Definition

its

adjective
(ˌ)its How to pronounce its (audio)
əts
: of or relating to it or itself especially as possessor
its kennel
, agent
a child proud of its first drawings
, or object of an action
its enactment into law

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