"Their," "There" and "They're": Which is Which?!

There and their, you’re and your – who needs to know the difference, anyway?

It all started with an innocent conversation on Facebook. My Norwegian friend was reporting to me that her friend had lost “there phone” earlier, but found it again, “over bye there desk.” Of course, she’d only been learning the language for a few years, and was doing pretty damn good in spite of these little hiccoughs, so I let it blow past me and carried on with the mindless chit-chat.

It wasn’t until later, though, that I began to realise just how common these mistakes were, and not just among those of foreign origin. I noticed a lot of my English friends making the same grammatical errors over MSN and Facebook, the conversations going something along the lines of:

“So do you need help with your homework then?”

“Nah. Your ok, thanks. I’m righting mine about animals. Have you done you’re homework?”

“No, need to plan it,”

“Me to. Rite, gotta go now. By!”

Where? You’re Right, Right? Wrong, Your Right! … huh?!

Well who wouldn’t be confused with yours, you’res, rights and wrongs flying about all over the place? Of course, the easy solution would just be to learn which ones to use and when. The problem isn’t so much having conversations over the Internet as when giving directions in written form.

“Go buy the pet shop, left at the roundabout, take you’re right and your there,” ensures I come away having purchased a pet shop, accepted the fact that I’m right, and apparently owning something called a “there”. So even though these words may sound exactly the same, spelling really does make the world of difference in meaning.

But how do you no the difference? …Oops, I mean ‘know’…

Well, whenever you see an apostrophe ( ’ ) that usually means elision, which is the omission of part of a word to squash two words together in speech. For example:

“you” + “are” = “you’re” (not “your”)

Your” needs a noun (an object) after it, because this word implies possession – “your bag”, “your dog,” and so on.

Similarly:

There’s = there + is

Theirs = possession. E.g. “That’s theirs.”

And all the others? To, too and two; by, buy and bye; right and write; son and sun; which and witch; know and no…well, you just have to learn those, I'm afraid.

By Daniella Wood © 2009 by Daniella Wood. All rights reserved. Copying without permission is illegal and will prosecuted.

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