There, They're, Their. The Rules of Common Homophones.
Ah the dreaded rules of grammar. Different versions of the same word, often used in the same sentence, confusing people everywhere. For those of us naturally good at "proper" English, it comes as second nature. For the rest of us, it's a constant battle trying to remember which "there" or "your" or "its" belongs in your sentence. In an effort to make it easier, we've put together some helpful ways to remember the difference between homophones (words that sound the same but mean different things).
- Apostrophes are used to shorten two words into one. When thinking about homophones, think about the apostrophe - it means you can split out the words to help you decide if it fits. You're is short for "you are". They're is "they are". It's is "it is" or "it has". Replace the shortened word with the full version and read it out loud - does it still make sense?
You're amazing = You are amazing. This works!
I like you're face = I like you are face. This no longer make sense - you know you've used the wrong word.
They're really energetic today = They are really energetic today. Makes sense!
I like they're hair = I like they are hair. Wrong homophone.
It's really cold out here = It is really cold out here. Brrrr!
The cat arched it's back = The cat arched it is back. The cat arched it has back. Huh?
If you can remember that a ' means two words into one, it becomes easier to tell when is the right time to use them.
- Your and Its. In the cases of your and its, if your sentence didn't work with the apostrophe version, use the other one. I like you're face didn't make sense once we rewrote it, so you know you need to use your. I like your face works much better. The cat arched its back because the cat arched it is back was terribly confusing.
If you really want to dig deeper, your and its are possessive adjectives. Who's face are we referring to? Yours. These two words are meant to explain the who or what, to put context in the sentence - after all, "I like face" doesn't really explain much. It can be hard to remember these technical explanations though, especially if writing isn't your strong suit - but if you stick to testing out the apostrophes, you will rarely go wrong.
- Their and There. If you've ruled out they're, you know you need one of the other two. The easiest way to remember the difference? Remove the t. Their becomes heir, and there becomes here.
An heir is someone who inherits something, who now owns it. Its counterpart their is also possessive - it belongs to the person you are describing. "I like their hair", because the hair you're talking about belongs to them. Use their if substituting another possessive adjective (her, his) makes sense - "I like his hair" works, so their is the right version.
Here is a destination. You're standing here, they ran over here as fast as they could, etc. There is also a destination, and the opposite of here. Use there when describing a place. "I don't like going there" does exactly that - where don't you like going? There. Using our other rules above, they're wouldn't fit because "I don't like going they are" doesn't make sense, and their doesn't work because "I don't like going his" also sounds like nonsense.
Let's level with you: it's tough. You'll probably still forget - that's okay! Bookmark this post or use trusty 'ole Google for a refresher when you need one. Better yet - just hire us to write your content for you - we promise to get it right.