This week, the By All Writes blog is back to grammar tips with a seriously trippy homophone, as suggested by Tobi Schwartz-Cassell of Girlfriendz Magazine. Snappy humor, clever examples in the form of sentences, and links to helpful (and sometimes eclectic) sites all follow.
By the end of this grammar-centric blog post, you will know how to use the following words correctly: their, there, and they’re!
Their Is a Most Demonstrative and Possessive Pronoun: According to my trusty Merriam-Webster, the word their means “…of or relating to them or themselves [especially] as possessors, agents, or objects of an action.” In other words, it indicates possession of something or someone. Hopefully, their isn’t a jealous control freak!
Proper use of the word in a sentence might look something like this: Ah, chihuahuas – their collective bark is worse than their collective bite. Do you know when their Aunt Cordelia from Prince Edward Island is coming to town for her annual winter visit? Anyone in their right mind knows that the producers of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo never watch their own show…
If There Is a Word with Multiple Personalities, It’s There: My dictionary lists four separate entries for the word there (scary)! It can represent a physical place or abstract point in time, be used as an interjection for emphasis, introduce a sentence or clause, and so on. The word there can drive you crazy, but it’s not possessive, and it most certainly isn’t a contraction.
Allow me to entertain you with this word’s onion-like layers: Once upon a time at a university in the Midwest, a gentleman once told me “you can’t get there from here” when I asked him for on-campus directions. I have blocked all the sports channels from our cable subscription; now you can only watch Turner Classic Movies, PBS and the History Channel, so there! There will be a day, “…and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day…” (You do know where I’m going with this one, right?)
They Are the Proud, the Few – They’re Contractions: The word they’re is merely a blended version of ‘they are’, and therefore, a contraction. This word usually functions as a subject or object in a sentence. It gives itself away through proper use of an apostrophe to denote the wedded bliss of two no-longer-single words.
And now for some examples: I’m not sure what those people wearing Google Glass headsets are doing here, but I’ll wager they’re from Mountain View, California. They’re closing the local Apple store early today, so if you want to play with an iPad for free before dinner, you’d better get going.
There you have it – another word phobia crushed like an escapee fruit fly from your high school biology lab experiment. If you’re still a wee bit unsure of proper usage for this set of tricky homophones, here is some additional help for your bookmarking pleasure. What grammatical mountains would you like me to help you scale next? Don’t hold back – if you have the will, I have the ability to make grammar fun (and funny).
Lori Shapiro is the owner of By All Writes LLC, a business writing, editing, and research company in Marlton, New Jersey. She revels in shielding her clients from the pain of writing their own print and web marketing copy. Call her (856-810-9764) or email her (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a no-obligation project quote today!
I clicked on your blog link from FB to read your take on their/there/they’re and was pleasantly surprised to see that somehow I contributed to this idea. I don’t remember doing that, but I’m happy to have helped contribute to another worthwhile blog post.
In my last ‘Grammar Tips’ blog post from January 2013, you challenged me to explain to people the difference between ‘their’ and ‘there’ (via a comment). Here, I’ll refresh your memory:
Thanks for reading and commenting – it’s almost too much online love for me to handle in one afternoon!