People tell me that writers mixing up ‘its’ and ‘it’s’ is annoying. It’s just as well because this reassures me that it’s not just me. See what I did there?
It’s = it is.
Guys, that’s the rule. Don’t you love its simplicity? It’s yours. For free. You’re very welcome.
So then why is it so easy to mix up ‘its’ and ‘it’s’?
Because the English language is a mad despot, and its grammatical features sometimes struggle to deal with all the demands. Like the employee who can’t say “no”, poor overworked apostrophe-plus-s is given multiple jobs, and sometimes it just can’t cope.
‘It’s’ is a contraction, like ‘don’t’ = ‘do not’ and ‘isn’t’ = ‘is not’. Contractions have an apostrophe to stand in for the missing letter.
‘Its’ (no apostrophe) is a possessive pronoun, like ‘his’ as in ‘his dinner’ and ‘her’ as in ‘her car’.
Even though it looks like it should, ‘it’s’ does not = a thing that belongs to ‘it’.
Lots of other possessive words take an apostrophe, like ‘the cat’s dinner’. But ‘its’ is an exception. It’s a possessive word that can’t possess an apostrophe. This trips up so many writers that it begins to look like it’s really, really in need of an apostrophe. But don’t be taken in! It’s just in a class of its own. The English language is trying to manipulate you into committing a grave grammatical error. Don’t let the mad despot win.