Why do anglophones confuse "it's" with "its" so much often? I mean, I can understand if it's a distraction mistake but I don't know if this is still a mistake or has become an actual rule to put "it's" as a possessive adjective instead of "its", because I even saw the use of "it's" as a possessive adjective in a footnote of a US website a few days ago, so I don't know if this became part of the language. However, to my knowledge, "its" is the correct possessive adjective, unless I'm proven wrong.

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    Sorry but this looks more like a rant than a genuine question about English language usage. – KillingTime Feb 26 at 21:14
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    Rant about what? I asked whether it is a part of the language. – us er Feb 26 at 21:19
  • "It's" as possessive is just a mistake, though it's a pretty understandable mistake given 's is used to indicate possession in most other cases. As for seeing it on a US website, that's not significant, lots of websites have spelling mistakes. – nnnnnn Feb 26 at 21:21
  • My recollection is that they didn't get this sorted out (for US collegiate texts) until the 60s. And it's easy to make the mistake. – Hot Licks Feb 26 at 22:43
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    Why would you not expect people to sometimes mix up homophones? – curiousdannii Feb 27 at 2:15

Why do they get it wrong?

  1. It's a complicated rule
  2. It's the opposite of the regular apostrophe rule ("The house's door is green.", but "Its door is green.")
  3. The regular apostrophe rule is itself complicated enough, without having to learn an exception to it.
  4. None of these rules are taught in native English-speaking schools except at the elementary level, after which they are forgotten.
  5. There are so many examples of poor apostrophe use, even by professional writers, that most people aren't aware that they are making a mistake, And if you believe that "correct English" is defined by the people who use it rather than a few people who write grammar rulebooks then maybe they are right.
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    I feel moved to tell a truthful little tale - for no other reason than for its poignancy. 64 years ago when I was 11 years old, the lad sitting next to me at school looked across at my work and noted that I had written "it's" as a possessive, in a test. As a friendly gesture he whispered that it meant "it is". Shortly thereafter the lad was taken seriously ill and in a few months he was dead, from a brain tumour. But I have never since wondered whether to place an apostrophe in "its", without remembering a friend called David Russell. – WS2 Feb 26 at 23:47
  • Thank you for the story. :) – us er Feb 28 at 20:59

I don’t think it’s become part of common usage, see the following comment from the Grammarist:

Most English speakers are comfortable with the difference between its and it’s, yet even the most careful writers mix them up in careless moments.  Such errors are typos, not grammar mistakes (there is a difference), and can usually be stamped out with a quick proofread.  None of us is immune to these mistakes, so let’s not be too hard on people who make the occasional its/it’s slip-up.

Also from M-W

We still see the possessive it's in dashed-off tweets and in flyers from local mattress stores, but the fact that it was right 300 years ago doesn't make it correct today.  For those of us who live — and write — in the here and now, use it's only when you mean it is or it has.  And drop that apostrophe everywhere else.

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  • I'm not being harsh on anyone, especially me as a non-native speaker. The thing is that I thought it became part of the language and I thought it was correct because of it becoming common. – us er Feb 26 at 21:21
  • @us er - if it’s becoming common, it still is a common mistake. – Hachi Feb 26 at 21:22
  • I don't think it's becoming any more common than it was a couple of decades ago. – nnnnnn Feb 26 at 21:25
  • I really oppose the "excuse" that "it's" vs. "its" is a typo and not a grammar mistake. If that's a typo, then you could and should consider "there" instead of "their"(and vice versa) as a typo as well. – csabinho Feb 26 at 23:36
  • @csabinho - "there" instead of "their" is a typo or a spelling error, not a grammar mistake. – nnnnnn Feb 27 at 4:18

When you are confused write it out: If the fully written version is "it is" or "it has", then write "it's", if it does not need the "is" or "has" then it is a possessive and no apostrophe is to be used.


It’s is a contraction of “it is” or “it has.” Its is a possessive determiner we use to say that something belongs to or refers to something. and its is a possessive just like “my” or “your.”

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    The question doesn't assess me being confused about it. – us er Feb 26 at 21:29

I cannot think of a language in which 100% of the speakers speak and write the language perfectly 100% of the time.


Over 2 billion people speak English, making English the largest language by number of speakers.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Languages_used_on_the_Internet#Content_languages_for_websites: Languages used on the internet

Rank Language.......Percentage




Statistically, the number of mistakes/typos is proportional to the number of words written.

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  • That doesn't assess my question. Thank you for the answer but this is not about generally making grammar mistakes out of distraction – us er Feb 26 at 22:33
  • @us er "this is not about generally making grammar mistakes out of distraction". Nevertheless, the answer by user067531 above, seems, via the quote from "Grammarist," to indicate the cause... and this is what you asked. – Greybeard Feb 26 at 22:42
  • But I didn't ask the estimates or asked whether native speakers commit mistakes in the language. Of course they might do, but my question was another. – us er Feb 26 at 22:44

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