Greetings and salutations Whyvillians - I come in peace! I come bearing gifts - well, one gift, and it's a grammar lesson, but I promise to try my darndest to make it a FUN grammar lesson. Now, I know you don't quite believe such a thing could exist, but I was once dubious like yourselves. And then I learned about homophones.
"Homophones!? What the heck are those?" I can hear you asking. And more importantly, you're asking yourself, "How can they possibly be fun?" Well let me tell you.
Homophones, (not to be confused with people who are afraid of homosexuals) are words that are pronounced exactly the same but have different meanings . As you can imagine, homophones end up being words that are bothersome and often confusing. I'm sure you can think of some common homophones off the top of your head, and I'm sure you can think of some incidents where you've seen them used wrong. In fact, the Times is often full of misused homophones and it is NOT fun to see these mistakes. So my fellow readers, in the interest of having fun, it is time to pick up the fight and join the crusade to end the improper use of homophones. In order to do that, I guess we should start by identifying some homophones and then figuring out when to use each word.
Let us begin with the first case: You're vs. Your.
These two words, in my opinion, are some of the most commonly confused words in all of the English language, and it drives me batty to see them mixed up. 'You're' is a contraction for the words 'you are'. It's easy to remember that 'you're' is the contraction because it contains the apostrophe. Conversely, 'your' is possessive and thus serves to indicate that something belongs to you. These rules might seem confusing at first, but when they are put into a sentence, it's easy to remember how to use each word properly.
Your two birds ate cobd because snails are a delicious snack. (It doesn't make sense to say, "You are two birds ate cobd . . .", now does it?)
You're smarter than Nerdishh, but that's not saying much. (You are smarter - you don't have smarter!)
Easy enough, huh? Well then let us move on to case the second: They're, their and there
This one is going to be a doozy to figure out - three homophones might seem impossible to keep straight, but I'm sure we'll get through it. Let's start with 'they're' because it's just like 'you're' and we already know that 'you're' means 'you are' so 'they're' must be a contraction that means 'they are'. Easy as pie. And wouldn't you know - 'their' is just like 'your' because it is the possessive form of 'they'. Sounding familiar at all? The added confusion comes with the added homophone 'there' which has two principal meanings. First of all, 'there' is used to indicate the location of an object, but it can also be used when a verb (an action) comes before a subject. Let's try some examples to see if that clears things up.
They're just jealous of babypowdr because she has a million clams. (Notice that it makes sense to say "they are jealous".)
Don't complain about their music - Baxierox and Iamtodd are tone deaf. (In this case, the music belongs to the people in question.)
Don't put the mustard in there unless you want morgan612 to get really angry! (You are putting the mustard in a specific place.)
There are many reasons you should buy a shirt for Slurpee15 - for starters, have you seen the one she's wearing? (In this case, "are" is the verb which comes before the subject. In this case it especially doesn't make sense to say "they're are many reasons", since the word are would be repeated.)
Okay, seeing as how these last two examples of homophones have been a piece of cake, I think that it's time we try something a little harder. We are going to explore 'its' vs. 'it's' and in my opinion, this is one of the most common grammar mistakes in all of the English language but most people don't even notice it is wrong. 'It's' is another one of those tricky contractions. It is a shortened form of 'it is'. For its part, 'its' is the possessive form of 'it.'
It's too late to save Play2live from Eric5675's rant about movie theaters - he's already heard it.
Rairai21's teddy bear lost its head in a tragic golfing accident. (Saying, "lost it is head," would be downright confusing!)
By now, you should be noticing that if you are unsure of when to use a contraction, it is often helpful to use the unabbreviated form of the contraction to see if the sentence makes sense. I'll let you in on a little secret: I still double check all of my contractions this way! If you don't know whether it is appropriate to use a possessive (remember that of the homophones we've just learned about, the possessives are never contractions), try substituting the word 'his' into your sentence and see if the sentence still has the same meaning.
I guarantee that your writing will improve even if you work on paying attention to these three simple homophones, and soon you'll be saving the world one sentence at a time.
Until next time,
The Grammar Snob aka. Giggler01
Author's Notes: All usernames used with permission.
Sources: The dictionary helped me out and it might be able to help you, too - it's a real book of wonders!
Disclaimer: Author is not responsible for any grammar mistakes she may have made in the writing of this article. My bad!