A good while back I blogged about how to discern between its and it’s. Easy, right? Its is always the possessive pronoun, as in ‘the dog buries its bone’, and it’s is only ever an abbreviation of ‘it is’ – unless of course it is capitalised to IT, as in ‘IT’s role in shaping world economies’. And don’t be confused with those speech marks either, they’re not apostrophes!

And then I read this phrase, quite recently: ‘it’s more trouble than it’s worth.’ No, no, no! I said to myself, the second it’s should be its, as in ‘It’s more trouble than its value.’ Until I googled it, and discovered that the more commonplace version uses it’s, as in ‘It is more trouble than it is worth.’

Wrong all those years.

Fortunately, both versions are acceptable – and in fact both versions mean pretty much the same thing – but it gives you an idea of the differences between the economy of spoken English and the clarity of written English. I’d always heard the phrase and assumed the noun worth, and therefore the pronoun its, when in fact it is more commonly the verb ‘to be worth’.

Sheesh! Did you follow that? Panic over.