Definition of its
- going to its kennel
- a child proud of its first drawings
- its final enactment into law
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.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'its.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
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.
: relating to or belonging to a certain thing, animal, etc. : made or done by a certain thing, animal, etc.
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