I checked my daughter’s homework today and her grammar questions were on the different uses of it’s and its. She’s 10. She got them all right.

It amazes me how many times you see the incorrect version used in emails and signed off communications from senior people and established companies. Have they forgotten the rule, or did they never know it? It must make every teacher or former teacher cringe when they see these kinds of mistakes.

Of course, the confusion lies in the fact that the apostrophe can denote both a missing letter and possession.  Paul’s a simpleton stands for Paul is etc, whereas Paul’s friend is a simpleton denotes the friend belongs to me. The exceptions to the ‘apostrophe for possession’ rules are – inconveniently – his, her and its, otherwise known as your possessive pronouns.

So, therefore, I offer you a primer.

It’s is ONLY EVER USED TO DENOTE A SHORTENING OF ‘IT IS’ or ‘IT HAS’ .

Its is ONLY EVER USED TO DENOTE ‘IT’ POSSESSING SOMETHING.

Thus, you say: It’s a dog, and it’s got its bone.

Does this post help, or does it come with its own headache?

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