Even the most intelligent English-speaking person can be brought to his knees by that dratted two-letter word: it.
We really, really want anything possessive to get an apostrophe! Doggone it, that little bugger belongs to it!
Actually, it doesn’t.
Here is a simple way to remember where to use it’s vs. its:
it’s = “it is”
its = belongs to it
Ok, that’s not so simple – but we have to refer back to that chart to get the simple part etched on your brain. Follow me, here…
“It” replaces the name of something. For the purpose of our demonstration, let’s say that we are talking about The Golden Gate Bridge. It would get really annoying to keep saying The Golden Gate Bridge every time we want to talk about The Golden Gate Bridge, so we replace The Golden Gate Bridge with the word “it.”
We do the exact same thing when we talk about a person. We would get tired of saying Justin Bieber every time we wanted to describe something that Justin Bieber did or how annoyed we are that Justin Bieber exists, so we replace Justin Bieber with the word “he.”
When something belongs to Justin Bieber, it is “his.”
It is the same for ALL those little replacer words (pronouns) that we change to show they belong to someone (possessive). They get a whole new word, rather than just an apostrophe. They are special like that.
Words that do NOT exist:
Really. These are not words. Honest. Use them and you will look really, really foolish.
The *real* words are:
Are you seeing a pattern here? GOOD!
Now, if something belongs to The Golden Gate Bridge, it is indeed The Golden Gate Bridge’s – but if you are sick of saying The Golden Gate Bridge and prefer instead to say ‘it’ – which word would you use to show that something belongs to it?
That’s right! No apostrophe, because we know that pronouns don’t need them.
We also know, based on our handy chart, above, that “it’s” means IT IS – and that is not what you want to say at all!
Try this little exercise:
I want to set the chair on <its> <it’s> side.
Let’s walk through it:
I want to set the chair on the chair’s side. <– The side belongs to the chair.
I know that it’s = it is, and saying, “I want to set the chair on it is side” makes no sense.
“I want to set the chair on its side.”
Now go forth and spread good spelling!