The posessive "its" has no apostrophe. "The dog scratched its ear." is correct; "The computer blew it's power supply." is not. "It's" is a contraction for "it is".

The oft-observed its-it's error is due to confusion over a specific exception-rule of prescriptive grammar. In English, possessives are usually formed with 's. However, this rule does not apply to pronouns:

I, me     → my, mine
you       → your, yours
he, him   → his
she, her  → her, hers
it        → its
we,us     → our, ours
they/them → their, theirs
In English, we also use 's to form a contraction with "is", as in "Bob's here." Note that "Bob" is the subject of the sentence — we normally don't see constructions like that you killed Kenny's cool. ("The fact that you killed Kenny is cool.")

The possessive pronouns are either novel or are built on the object case -- with the exception of it → its.

Nobody would say "Her is here", so there is no confusion over whether "Her's here" or "Hers here" is correct — the question doesn't arise.


ITS /I-T-S/ n.

1. Incompatible Time-sharing System, an influential though highly idiosyncratic operating system written for PDP-6s and PDP-10s at MIT and long used at the MIT AI Lab. Much AI-hacker jargon derives from ITS folklore, and to have been `an ITS hacker' qualifies one instantly as an old-timer of the most venerable sort. ITS pioneered many important innovations, including transparent file sharing between machines and terminal-independent I/O. After about 1982, most actual work was shifted to newer machines, with the remaining ITS boxes run essentially as a hobby and service to the hacker community. The shutdown of the lab's last ITS machine in May 1990 marked the end of an era and sent old-time hackers into mourning nationwide (see high moby). 2. A mythical image of operating-system perfection worshiped by a bizarre, fervent retro-cult of old-time hackers and ex-users (see troglodyte, sense 2). ITS worshipers manage somehow to continue believing that an OS maintained by assembly-language hand-hacking that supported only monocase 6-character filenames in one directory per account remains superior to today's state of commercial art (their venom against Unix is particularly intense). See also holy wars, Weenix.

--The Jargon File version 4.3.1, ed. ESR, autonoded by rescdsk.

The reason traditionally given for "its" being exceptional among possessives in its lack of an apostrophe is that the English language (God bless her and all who sail in her) used to follow simpler rules.
1) "Its" means "belonging to it, and is the only way to form a possessive.
2) Apostrophes are used for contraction only.
Thus the original formation of "the dog's claws" would have been "the dog its claws." The "it" in the middle gets dropped, leaving an apostrophe instead. Writing "it's claws" would be equivalent to "it its claws," and hence erroneous.

Unfortunately, this explanation isn't true. It's pretty neat, though.

Its (?).

Possessive form of the pronoun it. See It.


© Webster 1913.

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