[ its ]
/ ɪts /
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the possessive form of it1 (used as an attributive adjective): The book has lost its jacket. I'm sorry about its being so late.
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Fill in the blank: I can’t figure out _____ gave me this gift.

Origin of its

1590–1600; earlier it's, equivalent to it1 + 's2

words often confused with its

A very common mistake is to write its (the possessive form of it ) when it's (the short form of it is or it has ) is required: It's [it is] unclear what he meant. It's [it has] been wonderful seeing you again. But do not use it's for it has when has is the main verb: It has a strong flavor; use it sparingly cannot be written as It's a strong flavor… An equally common mistake is to use it's for the possessive, probably because ordinary possessives of nouns are formed with an apostrophe: the dog's coat; Mary's cell phone. But the possessive its is a pronoun, not a noun, and, like other possessive pronouns ( his, hers, yours, and theirs ), is written without that particular bit of punctuation: I have to fix my bike. Its front wheel came off.

usage note for its

While it is possible to use its as a predicate adjective ( The cat is angry because the bowl you're eating out of is its! ) or as a pronoun meaning “that or those belonging to it” ( Your notebook pages are torn. Borrow my notebook—its aren't ), such use is rare and in most circumstances strained. See also me.


it's, its (see confusables note at the current entry)

Other definitions for its (2 of 2)

[ its ]
/ ɪts /

contraction of it is:It's starting to rain.
contraction of it has: It's been a long time.

usage note for it's

words often confused with it's

See its.


it's , its (see confusables note at its)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What’s the difference between its and it's?

Its is the possessive form of the pronoun it—it means belonging to it. It’s is a contraction of it is or it has—meaning that it’s a combination of the two words, making it shorter to say.

The confusing part is that possession is often indicated by an apostrophe and the letter s (’s), as in That is Mike’s car or Is this anyone’s jacket? But some possessive pronouns—including hers, theirs, and its—just add s on the end, without an apostrophe. Its is the most potentially confusing because it is very commonly used with the verb is (unlike her and their, which are never used with is because they are never used as subjects).

As a possessive, its is typically applied to animals or objects in discussion of their parts or qualities, as in This container is missing its lid or Look at that bird—its beak is so long!  

If you can substitute it is for the word you’re using, then you want it’s. Remember, the apostrophe part of the contraction is really standing in for the letter i in the word is.

Here’s an example of its and it’s used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: Have you seen my suitcase? It’s¹ black and its² zipper is red and it’s³ got a ton of stuff in it.

1 = It is
2 = possessive
3 = it has

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between its and it’s.

Quiz yourself on its vs. it's!

Should its or it’s be used in the following sentence?

The car is missing _____ front tires.

How to use its in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for its (1 of 2)

/ (ɪts) /

  1. of, belonging to, or associated in some way with itits left rear wheel
  2. (as pronoun)each town claims its is the best

British Dictionary definitions for its (2 of 2)

/ (ɪts) /

contraction of
it is or it has

usage for it's

One of the commonest mistakes made in written English is the confusion of its and it's . You can see examples of this every day in books, magazines, and newspapers: its good for us; a smart case with it's own mirror, and even Cheng, and its' subsidiaries . Its refers to something belonging to or relating to a thing that has already been mentioned: the baby threw its rattle out of the pram . It's is a shortened way of saying it is or it has (the apostrophe indicates that a letter has been omitted: it's a lovely day; it's been a great weekend .
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012