JS Tip 9: On Punctuation: Using “it’s” and “its”

This is a mistake you see all the time. “It’s”—with the apostrophe—is always, always, always a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” It’s never a possession.


So how can you tell the difference? Play a substitution game. Mentally substitute “it is” or “it has” for “it’s.” If the substitution works, the apostrophe works. If it doesn’t work, the apostrophe doesn’t work.


For example: “It’s a beautiful day.” Substitute “It is”: “It is a beautiful day.” Yup. That works. “The company must return to it’s roots.” Substitute “it is”: “The company must return to it is roots.” (Oh, wow.) No. That doesn’t work. Adjust accordingly.


But what about the argument that apostrophes usually indicate possession? “Amie’s quilt?” “The plaintiff’s testimony?” Sure. Usually. But not always. We say “his,” not “hi’s.” English is not a logical language, but that’s another discussion.