Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Teach Me Tuesday: There, their, it will be okay

So I've missed a couple weeks. Isn't it funny how time slips away from you? I'm back due to popular demand. (Almost three people asked about what had happened to my blog!) Today you'll review two things. First, a definition:

Homophone: a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not (so says dictionary.com).

Second, let's talk about a specific set of homophones: There, Their, They're.

Circle (in your mind, not on your screen!) which one to use:

Look!  There/Their/They're playing with there/their/they're dog over there/their/they're!

A: They're playing with their dog over there.


They're is a contraction for (short for) they are. If you could swap out "they are" for the "there/their/they're" in the sentence, then use they're. 

Their is a possessive pronoun---a word that indicates ownership. Sometimes possessive pronouns can be used alone: That dog is theirs. Sometimes a possessive pronoun can be used modify a noun: That is their dog. [Please notice that there is NOT an apostrophe in the "That dog is theirs." The apostrophe indicating ownership only applies to nouns, not possessive pronouns.]

There simply means "that location." Notice that "here" is a part of the spelling of "there" and that they both indicate location. A trick to remembering if you should use "there" is to substitute "here"  into your sentence, "They're playing with their dog over here." Does it still make sense? It may change the meaning, but if it would still work in a sentence, use "there."

No exceptions to this rule.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Teach Me Tuesday: You’re verses Your (the late edition)

Did you know that yesterday was Tuesday? I didn’t. You know how when there’s a holiday on Monday, the day after Monday still feels like a Monday because you are doing your Monday things? So it didn’t occur to me to post. I’m sure you were disappointed.

Nevertheless I’ll continue on with today’s lesson. Your verses You’re. In my humble opinion, this is the most serious and obvious grievance in all of editing, and it’s the easiest to solve without having to look it up (like the lay/lie/laid/lied question I’m always turning to in my Chicago Manual of Style). 

You’re is a contraction of “you are.”

Your is a possessive pronoun (a word in place of a noun which indicates possession).

Quiz time:

I hope your/you’re bringing your/you’re camera to the game tonight.

How did you do? If you answered “you’re” then “your” you got 100%!

Stumped? What we really meant was “I hope you are bringing the camera that belongs to you to the game tonight.” So the questions to ask in this situation are: 1) do I really mean “you are,” and if not, 2) Does something belong to someone? If the answer to both questions is no, then probably you’re trying to spell “yore” as in “Days of Yore.” But maybe you were writing “Days of your life” in which case the days belong to you, and your would be correct after all! Ah, I think I’m funny sometimes late at night.

So? No more awkward moments for all of us on facebook ever again, right? (Remember the time that I mentioned this very issue on facebook and seriously got un-friended by a couple of people---good times!)