its

adjective
\ˈits, əts\

Definition of its 

: of or relating to it or itself especially as possessor, agent, or object of an action going to its kennel a child proud of its first drawings its final enactment into law

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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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

ITS HAPPENING GUYS! August 20 on E! with my Best Friends! Yvonne Juris, PEOPLE.com, "Smash Hits! Jersey Shore Stars Throw Shade at Past Housemate Hookups During Reunion Road Trip," 17 Aug. 2017 ITS HAPPENING GUYS! August 20 on E! with my Best Friends! Laura Beck, Cosmopolitan, "Jersey Shore Reunion Finally Has a Premiere Date," 12 Aug. 2017 EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE Provide bins, shelving and storage that children can reach to take out and put away their things, White said. Melissa Kossler Dutton, chicagotribune.com, "Kids' bedroom oases should reflect their personalities," 8 Aug. 2017 ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. Mike Wall, Scientific American, "Elon Musk Publishes Plans for Colonizing Mars," 16 June 2017 ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. Mike Wall Space.com Senior Writer, Fox News, "SpaceX's Mars colony plan: How Elon Musk plans to build a million-person Martian city," 16 June 2017 ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. Mike Wall, Scientific American, "Elon Musk Publishes Plans for Colonizing Mars," 16 June 2017 ITS rockets will launch the spaceships to Earth orbit, then come back down for a pinpoint landing about 20 minutes later. Mike Wall Space.com Senior Writer, Fox News, "SpaceX's Mars colony plan: How Elon Musk plans to build a million-person Martian city," 16 June 2017 ITS spaceships could begin flying to Mars about 10 years from now, if everything goes well, Musk added. Mike Wall, Scientific American, "Elon Musk Publishes Plans for Colonizing Mars," 16 June 2017

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.

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First Known Use of its

1577, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for its

The first known use of its was in 1577

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More Definitions for its

its

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of its

: relating to or belonging to a certain thing, animal, etc. : made or done by a certain thing, animal, etc.

its

adjective
\ˈits \

Kids Definition of its

: relating to or belonging to it or itself The fox licked its sore paw.

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More from Merriam-Webster on its

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with its

Spanish Central: Translation of its

Nglish: Translation of its for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of its for Arabic Speakers

Comments on its

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