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Course: SAT > Unit 11

Lesson 3: Writing: Grammar

Writing: It’s/Its Confusion — Video Lesson

David shows you how to approach an It’s/Its question on the SAT Writing and Language test. Created by David Rheinstrom.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] We're taking a look at question 24 here from a passage about a famous abstract sculpture "Bird in Space." Let me read the sentence here. "With its ends tapering into points, "much of the slender 53-inch curve "appears suspended in the air above its marble base." Okay, so our options for its ends, the underlined portion, are choice A, no change, which is it apostrophe S end apostrophe S, choice B is I-T apostrophe S ends no apostrophe, choice C is I-T-S apostrophe ends no apostrophe, and choice D is I-T-S no apostrophe ends no apostrophe. So this question is asking us about apostrophe use, but more specifically it's asking us to decide between two forms of the word its. Is it I-T-S, the possessive meaning belongs to it, or is it the contraction I-T apostrophe S meaning it is? You're gonna see one to two questions like this on your official SAT, questions that test your knowledge of its versus it's or there, their, and they're. So yeah, let's review. Its without an apostrophe means belongs to it. Whereas I-T apostrophe S is short for it is. And their T-H-E-I-R means belongs to them. They're T-H-E-Y apostrophe R-E is short for they are. And there T-H-E-R-E means that place. So we've got a top tip for questions like these, which is expand the contractions. So if you're looking at a sentence that says, "The plate had a crack running across its center," we can take that underlined contraction and expand it into it is. So now it reads, "The plate had a crack "running across it is center," and that makes the error more obvious. We can see that the word that we actually need there is the possessive I-T-S, its no apostrophe. Another way to think of it is to group the possessive its with other possessive pronouns, like his hers, yours, ours, and theirs. none of these has an apostrophe, ever. Let's head back to the question. If you want to take a minute to pause the video, see if you can solve it on your own. Okay. Let's do it. All right, so let's take our top tip and expand the contractions. So choice A, it is end is. That makes no sense. But what about it is end possessive apostrophe S, right? This choice implies that something belongs to the end, but no, neither make sense. The ends are tapering into points. There's nothing possessive about that. So I'm gonna cross off no change. Choice B has the same problem. It is ends, with it is ends tapering into points. That's weird. No, thank you. Ah, we can cross that off, too. Choice C is I-T-S apostrophe, which isn't a a thing, actually. There are only two forms of its that exist in English. I-T-S and I-T apostrophe S. Anything else can be immediately eliminated. This just doesn't exist. Already we've eliminated our way to choice D, its ends no apostrophe. So its is possessive and possessive pronouns don't ever have apostrophes. So, okay, so the slender 53-inch curve, this is the sculpture we're talking about here. It has two ends and the two ends belong to it. Choice D is our answer. So our strategy for questions like this is to first eliminate the big outliers by expanding the contractions. If it is or they are don't make sense in context, get rid of I-T apostrophe S and they apostrophe R-E. And if multiple choices use the correct form of its or there, look for other errors within those choices, like punctuation errors or pronoun agreement errors. With this technique, you'll be able to bounce through a question like this very quickly indeed. Good luck out there. You've got this.