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Why is it important to differentiate between these two little words? Quite simply, because they mean two totally different things. You wouldn't dream of writing, ‘I hat being late for meetings’ instead of ‘I hate being late for meetings’. The apostrophe is just as important to the meaning as the letter 'e'. So until it becomes second nature to use them correctly, remember:

When the owner doesn't need it, give it to the word with something missing.  

 

 

 

 

If you have read Apostrophes, you will know that the apostrophe can show you that a letter is missing. In this case, ‘it's’ is a contraction of ‘it is’, so the missing ‘i’ is replaced by the apostrophe.

It’s a funny bird, the pelican.

 

 

 

 

Its – no apostrophe – is the possessive of ‘it’. This is where the confusion is most likely to arise as a possessive – when something belongs to something – usually takes an apostrophe. Not so with hers, his, theirs and its.

Its beak can hold more than its belly can.

 

 

Remember, then:

When the owner doesn't need it, give it to the word with something missing.  

 

And for anyone who is annoyed that they can't remember the rest of the nonsense verse:

It’s a funny bird, the pelican.

Its beak can hold more than its belly can.

It can take in its beak,

Enough food for a week,

But I’m blowed if I know

How the hell it can.

 

It's and its

It's

Its