its

adjective
\ ˈits How to pronounce its (audio) , 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 suite with its own private bathroom its final enactment into law

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.

First Known Use of its

1577, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About its

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Cite this Entry

“Its.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/its. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for its

its

adjective
\ ˈits How to pronounce its (audio) \

Kids Definition of its

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

More from Merriam-Webster on its

Nglish: Translation of its for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of its for Arabic Speakers

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