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How to Conquer Spelling Confusions: Simple Plural with letter 's'; to/too/two; are/our

Updated on January 10, 2017

Help! How do I spell this?

There are so many confusing spellings in the English language. How do you make your way safely through the minefield? Some think ‘To hell with it! They’ll know what I mean.’ Others want, or need, to get it right.

If your first language is not English it can be even more difficult to master the spelling. However, in my teaching experience, many foreign students have a better grasp of spelling and grammar than those whose first language is English! My message to those who are still learning is 'do your best'. As long as you are trying, no one expects more.

The purists amongst us, like me, think that we should always try to be correct. I feel that spelling can affect meaning and therefore the more accurate we can be, the better.

If you’re a serious writer, I think you need to get it right. So here are a few tips to help.


Just Add an s!

BOOKS
BOOKS | Source
CUSHIONS
CUSHIONS | Source

Plural with letter s

There are many endings we need to use when writing the plural of a noun (a thing). Plural means ‘more than one’. Plurals can get complicated but let’s start with the basics.

I just want to look at the simplest plural form, adding the letter s. Lately I’ve seen so many written with an apostrophe that I’m champing at the bit to say something, to shout, ‘No apostrophe!’

Simply add s:

a car - three cars, a book - ten books,

carrots, tables, animals.......


Lots of numbers, Many letters!

NUMBERS
NUMBERS | Source
LETTERS
LETTERS | Source

Numbers & Letters

With numbers, it’s slightly different; you can have thousands or two thousand, the latter without an s because two thousand is a number, an entity in itself.

However if you write thousands as a number it’s 1000s.

Just because it’s a number you don’t need an apostrophe! If you add an apostrophe it means that something belongs to the 1000 or it implies that there are letters missing when there are not. The numbers stand for the word ‘thousand’ so you add the s just the same.

The same happens with letters:

How many As in Maximilian? If you use the lower case a it can be confusing (looks like as) so think about how you want to present it. You could put the letter in parenthesis, as “a”s or use obliques, /a/s.


The Dreaded Apostrophe!!

An apostrophe is used in some cases of possession:

It is Ann’s book. (The book belongs to Ann.)

It is also used when there are missing letters in words known as contractions because two words have been squashed together, reflecting conversation:

It’s annoying. (It is annoying.)


Beware, though, of “its” indicating possession!

The dog’s coat was black and long. Its coat was black and long.

its = belonging to it (possession)

it’s = a contraction of it is (the second “i” is missing)

Please, please, please, no more incorrect apostrophes!


2 = TWO

Source

To, too or two?

two: (a number)

Most people don’t have a problem with the number ‘two’; maybe the fact that it’s a little strange makes it easier to remember. However, if you do find it difficult, think of 2 as ‘double’ then you have ‘w’ (double ‘u’) in the middle.


to:

Direction - You go to work. You take a train to Newcastle.

Verb - She wants to be a writer. He likes to play tennis.

Connected to: “Fish” is to “sea” as “bird” is to “air”. The carriage is fixed to the train.

Extensions - ‘to’ as a prefix (put in front): towards, together, tonight, today, tomorrow


Extra O!

TOO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT!
TOO MUCH TO THINK ABOUT! | Source

too:

meaning as well, also: He was there too. (He was there as well as his brother.)

She saw the accident too. (She also saw the accident.)

indicating excess: too many, too much, too high, too bright

The use of ‘too’ is indicative of something or someone extra.

It’s too much. There is more than is necessary.

It’s too loud. There is more sound than I can stand.

So how do you remember it? Well, it indicates extra, so you have an extra ‘o’!


Our - belongs to us

Source

Are or Our?

are: the plural form of present tense 'to be'

It goes with 'we', 'you' (plural), 'they'; in other words, with more than one thing or person. It also follows 'there' when there are more than one.

We are so clever.

You are both taller than I am.

They are brothers.

There are many people at the concert.



our: the possessive form of 'us'

It's our house. (It belongs to us.)

Our feelings depend on how others treat us.

Here is a sentence with both words included: Our cars are all red.

The words ‘are’ and ‘our’ are easier to differentiate if you pronounce ‘our’ as ‘ower’, as some people do. The difference between the two words becomes more obvious.

The word ‘our’ also has the ‘u’ from the word ‘us’.


Which one would you use?

Let's put all that to the test, shall we?

Decide which word is correct in the following sentences.

1. He was .... tired ..... go ..... the disco. (to, two, too)

2. I wanted that dress but it was .... expensive. (to, two, too)

3. .... they going to Pat’s party? (Are, Our)

4. One wasn't enough; he wanted ....... (too, two, to)

5. ...... cat was stripy and answered to the name of Zeb! (Are, Our)


Answers:

1. too, to, to

2. too

3. Are

4. two

5. Our


What do you Find Difficult?

I've already written a few hubs on spelling and grammar and have a few more in the making.

However, if any of you wants help with a particular spelling pattern, please let me know. I'll put a few of them together in a future hub. Sometimes a little mnemonic (way to remember) can make all the difference.

I believe there must be a spelling gene! Some people find it effortless, others have to struggle or forever look up words to get it right. I sympathise and therefore will do my best to help. I'm looking forward to hearing from you so feel free to let me know in the comments section.


Copyright annart/AFC 2014

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    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      peachpurple: I'm afraid so! Much of my 'grammar/spelling' type writing here comes from teaching dyslexics who need specific ways of dealing with all sorts of literacy. Sorry if I sound too 'teachy'! Thanks for reading and commenting. Good to see you.

      Ann

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Are you a teacher? Reminded me of my primary school teacher

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      peachpurple: Thanks for commenting and I hope this helps!

      Ann

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      yeah, i always have problems with the plural and singular, whether i should add the s after that

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Jo. Glad I can be of use.

      Grammar can be a minefield but simple rules and reminders can help.

      Still haven't caught up with all your 'words' but getting there! Great to see you today, Jo.

      Ann

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 2 years ago

      This is awesome! I know now where to look when I need help with the

      "are/our" situations. I use spell check but sometimes grammer is something that we all could benefit from. I voted this up for useful, interesting and awesome! Shared this too. :-)

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Thanks, Ann.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      rajan jolly: Thank you for your kind comments. I'm glad you have no worries about spelling. It can present many problems to some.

      Thanks, too, for following me. I'm off to look at your profile right now!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 2 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Excellent tutorial on clearing the confusion in spellings of many like sounding words.

      I agree with you that non native English speakers are better at avoiding these spelling pitfalls.

      And, with all humility, I say that spellings never foxed me.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Funny you should say that, Iris; I think I'm a word snob too! It's because I find myself, more and more, banging on about people misusing or misspelling. Then I listen to myself and think, 'For goodness sake, get a life!' The next day I'm back to the usual moaning of 'What is the world coming too?' and sounding more like my grandmother every day!

      I'm not above making mistakes, of course, though I do insist they're typos!

      Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Great to see you here, as always.

      Ann

    • Iris Draak profile image

      Cristen Iris 2 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      Excellent tutorial! I'm so glad you included my pet peeve of using "are" instead of "our". I cannot watch one of my local news stations because they consistently mispronounce "our" as "are" as well.

      Ann, I fear I becoming a word snob. And yet, I am sure that I have my own inconsistencies and annoying written and verbal habits so keep these coming. I benefit from them.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      travmaj: Senior status means we can get away with a lot! That's my excuse too.

      Glad you found this useful. Thanks for visiting. Have a great evening and a lovely Thursday!

      Ann

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 2 years ago from australia

      Thanks Ann - needed this. So many years since it was drummed in at school. I noticed the other day I'd made a comment using to instead of too in a sentence. Easy as that. I'm blaming senior status of course...

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      alancaster: Ah! I see. Sorry I didn't twig to that one!

      You are so right about English being a minefield but that's what makes it such a rich language, don't you think? I know only too well how difficult it is for foreign students as I've taught quite a few with my TEFL hat on. Challenging but great fun.

      Thank you for clarifying your comment and for returning to leave more interesting input. Hope to see you again.

      Ann

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      'For an outsider', being for a beginner in understanding English, not you. There are numerous Hubbers whose mother tongue isn't English, so it might help them on their way.

      I've come across too many who think English is an easy language to learn, as we've got fewer grammar rules. French and German are relatively hide-bound and don't give much latitude for linguistic creativity. Plus we have words from more than one source that mean the same, and then on top of them there's a cartload of loan words from Hindi and other eastern languages that have been 'seconded' into English.

      A bit of a mountain to climb for someone who's come in from the cold.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Dora, for reading, commenting and voting. I'm glad you popped by; good to see you today!

      Ann

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 years ago from The Caribbean

      Ann, thanks for the lesson. Voted Up, Useful and more.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Prof Liway: Thank you very much. I'm glad you found this useful.

    • Prof Liway profile image

      Liwayway Memije-Cruz 2 years ago from Bulacan, Philippines

      Very useful post...congratulations my dear ann.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Perspycacious: Thank you kindly. Loved the comment! Good to see you here.

    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 2 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      As for the two of us, this Hub is too perfect to ignore!

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      alancaster149: Thanks for the comment. Actually, I did make an error but it wasn't what you thought. I forgot to put the options for numbers 4 & 5 and have now corrected that. I'm surprised no one else picked it up though!

      I wasn't considering 'ours', with which I'm equally familiar, as the confusion is between 'are' and 'our' as they have (usually) the same pronunciation.

      Not sure what you mean by 'an outsider'!

      Thanks for the visit; much appreciated.

      Ann

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan Robert Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Good beginner for an outsider, Ann. Except... (Nobody seems to have picked up on this one). Last part should be: "...he wanted ours".

      (His, theirs, ours - i.e: it's our car, but you can leave the 'car' out if you just say 'it's ours', as in: Q 'Whose car is this?' 'It's ours'. It's a minor thing, but it matters).

      Just thought I'd set that one straight. Everyone makes mistakes.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      DDE: Thanks for your kind comment. I like the 'brilliant'! Glad you found this useful and I appreciate the votes.

      Ann

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Brillinat topic! I so agree on these common mistakes. You always choose such helpful information to write about. Vote up, useful, and interesting.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      You are so good, John; well done! We all make mistakes, even the best. I proof-read my work a day later and that works better than half an hour later because we read what's actually there rather than what's fresh in our heads. Even so, I've made plenty of mistakes which I notice a lot later.

      It is the phonetic similarity between are and our that creates the problem and some just don't think when they're writing. Ah well... I can only try!

      Good to see you today, as always, and thank you for your valuable comment.

      Ann

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      chef-de-jour: I agree entirely. Most of my grammar advice comes directly from the way I taught my dyslexic students. Lots of games etc to go with it of course, as well as all the multi-sensory stuff. There are plenty of grammar books but it needs to be made more user-friendly and fun - not an easy thing to do with spelling!

      Thanks so much for your comments and valuable input.

      Ann

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Another good English lesson Ann. My main problem is my keyboard and various keys occasionally sticking or not working. I find this often happens when writing comments and I don't always pick it up until too late. I hate it when I find mistakes in my hubs days or weeks after I have written them. It's embarrassing to think so many people have read them and seen the mistakes, but too polite to mention it. I know a few people who have problems with "our' and 'are' but I just cannot understand how you can mix these two up (other than they sound a little alike phonetically) *notice I have used all forms of the word "two, too, to" in my comment? :) Voted up.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you Ann, some useful information that I could use in a future class? I think some of us have an instinctive 'nose' for correct spelling but there's no substitute for good hard learning through repetition and practice.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Yes, Frank, there are so many different codes of language, text being the latest one and that's a good thing. I embrace innovations in our vocabulary and spelling. The world moves on.

      The bad thing is when people don't know the difference between the relevant codes and the boundaries become blurred. I'm constantly banging on about the professionals needing to know what they're up to! If grammar was 'cool' we wouldn't have a problem but then pigs might fly!

      Thanks for the visit; always good to see you and your support is greatly appreciated.

      Ann

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks bill. I know it's not a big deal in day to day living but I'm adamant that the professionals should know what they're doing!

      Good to see you this morning.

      You have a great week too, bill.

      Ann

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 2 years ago from Shelton

      this was an interesting read.. now with the world of texting folks are bringing back confusion.. example.. got a text r u there? nuttin much, how u.. so yeah I found this hub interesting my friend :)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Ann, I was once an excellent speller. What would you expect from a man taught by nuns? LOL Now, my spelling prowess is waning...sad but true. Having said all that, well done. Any article that promotes proper grammar is a good article in my book. :)

      Have a great week my friend.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Will! You're right, it takes just a little application although some people require more over-learning than others, depending on their memory capabilities.

      Glad you liked this. Good to see you.

      Ann

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Its, it's, there, their, they're, your, you're, yore, etc. They're actually not that difficult if someone wants to dedicate a few hours to educate themselves, and it's absolutely necessary if we want to write.

      Good Hub, Ann!

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      vocalcoach: Thank you so much for your kind words, votes and sharing. I'm glad you found this worthwhile and I appreciate your visit.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Every writer would do well to read this hub. Great explanations and examples. Voted up, useful, awesome, interesting and will certainly share!

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      I knew what you meant! No prob!

      Ann

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      You're quite right, Faith, but the thing is that you self-corrected. How I wish more people would proof-read their work and notice those correctable mistakes, as you just did. Well done!

      I'll certainly be getting on with the suggestions I've been given here.

      Ann

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Oops, for some reason I was not able to edit my comment with "are" and should have said "as it appears here ..." Sorry.

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      always exploring: Glad you found this helpful. Certainly I can do one about doubling letters - there are rules for that one and it's not as complicated as you might think.

      Thanks for your great input and for the suggestion.

      Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

      Ann

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Thank you, Ann. I feel the same way too. That is a lovely thing to say and share, and I thank you for doing so. I appreciate the clarification!

      I reread my first sentence there in my previous comment to you, and I really should have placed the word "incorrectly" after "using these examples" as it appears are I am writing that you are doing so incorrectly LOL ... There you go, another lesson for me to be sure to place words in the most effective place in a sentence. That would also make a good hub, well, for me.

      Hope your Sunday is lovely as well

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Another helpful hub. I wish you would write a hub concerning a word like jewel-jewelled-jeweled or occur-occurred, why the extra r? why is jumped not jumpped, how do you know when to add another letter? Thank you...

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Yes, Jo, it's the verb ending that gets many people, often. You just have to stop and rephrase to see what works and what's logical. As you say, 'Simples!' (I love those adverts.)

      Thanks again!

      Ann

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Sorry Ann, trouble at mill. :)

      What I was attempting to impart, before the the page took on a life of its own, was that the bane of my writing tends to be singular and plural verbs, and it shouldn't be a problem. Simples! plural subject = (s) Singular = no s. Duh..:)

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Jo. It looks like I might not have your full comment here though!

      I appreciate you reading this and glad you find it useful.

      Ann

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 2 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

      Ann, another useful article. The bane of my writing is

    • annart profile image
      Author

      Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

      You're not rambling, Faith. You have some valid points here.

      My sentence could read, "However, if any one of you wants help...", therefore the 's' belongs to the single of the verb. In other words, it goes with the 'any(one)' not the 'you' (plural).

      You're perfectly correct about the quotes. That's another area of confusion. I'll try to deal with that in a hub - thanks for the suggestion.

      I love reading your comments. They are always so different and personal to you which is how it should be. You seem like a real friend even though I've never met you and I find that amazing.

      Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts here. They are always much appreciated.

      Hope your weekend is going well; have a great Sunday afternoon and evening!

      Ann

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 2 years ago from southern USA

      Ann, I am always surprised when I see those, especially in the education field, using these examples here you have indicated incorrectly. I may have already told you of this one instance where a candidate for the office of Superintendent of Education used "it's" instead of the correct word "its" in his huge political advertisement on the side of his business which is located on one of the main streets going through the city! I was so tempted to stop and point it out to him. However, I certainly have made plenty of mistakes far too often myself.

      I am also so surprised at the possessive being used when one uses numbers. It often makes me question whether I am in the wrong due to it being someone who should know the difference.

      Here in the South, most likely due to our southern accents, I see far too often the use of the word "are" when it should be "our" ...and it is certainly curious to me being the meaning of the words are not even close.

      I think out of all of these here, the ones I see used incorrectly the most are the "to, too and two" as well as the "its and it's".

      Where I have the most difficulty is, for example, when I read your capsule, "What do you Find Difficult?" in your second paragraph there starting with, "However, if any of you wants help with ...", I would have written it as, "However, if any of you want help with ..."? I would have not placed an "s" on the word "want". Also, another area I find difficult, due to reading published books using quotations in a sentence and then the punctuation is either outside the quotations and then some use the final punctuation inside the quotations. I know that both are correct depending on your sentence structure. To me, if the entire sentence is a quote, then the punctuation should be inside the quotations, but if only part of the sentence is in a quote and the quote is at the end of the sentence, then the punctuation should be outside the last quote in the sentence. Again, I am confused as I see published authors using it differently.

      You are a wonderful teacher. Thank you for the clarification. I apologize for rambling on here.

      Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

      Blessings always

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