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How to Conquer Spelling Confusions: Simple Plural with letter 's'; to/too/two; are/our
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!
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 & 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
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.
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
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’!
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’.
Our - belongs to 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)
1. too, to, to
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.
Does it Matter?
Do you think spelling correctly is important?
© 2014 Ann Carr