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It's vs. Its

Two words which are often confused when writing are the words its and it's.

Part of the confusion lies in the fact that we think of 's (apostrophe-s) as a possessive. This is - in most cases - true; "John's car" means "the car that belongs to John" and "The bank's pencil" means "the pencil that belongs to the bank."

However, in the case of it's, the apostrophe-s does not indicate possessive. It's is a contraction of it and is, or occasionally a contraction of it and has.

Thus, you would use it's in the following sentences: It's a beautiful day, which means It is a beautiful day, and It's been a great summer, which means It has been a great summer.

If you remember that it's is a contraction, you can ask yourself "Does it make sense to say It is a beautiful day, or It has been a great summer?" If it does, then you are correct to write it's.

Its (without an apostrophe) is the possessive form of the pronoun it. Thus you would use its in the following examples: The dog licked its wounds or The kingdom barely survived its latest war.

Notice that in these two cases, it makes no sense to replace its with either it is or it has, so we know we are right to use the form without the apostrophe.

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