Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grammar: They all begin with THE

Since I'm swamped with work and last minute book release stuff, so this will be a short grammar goof column.

First of all, thank you to ByronStar for the title of this column.

The English language has some interesting spellings that trip up those learning English as a second, third or fifth language because the way it sounds is not always the way it's written. For example: THEIR, PIERCE, NEIGHBOR, etc. The common factor is the combination of IE and EI.

The rule I learned was I before E, except after C. Well, in the case of NEIGHBOR, there is no C and yet it's spelled EI and not IE. There are words in the English language that are peculiar in spelling, but that you will just have to memorize. It's that simple. That brings us to today's requested grammar goof, how to tell when to use THEIR, THEY'RE and THERE. It would seem to be logical and quite easy to figure out, but these three words, also called homonyms because they sound the same and are spelled differently and have different meanings. Still, these three words are often mixed up.

To begin with, they all begin with THE. That at least helps with spelling THEIR, since the clue makes it obvious whether I goes before E or vice versa. It's the latter.

THEIR is a possessive pronoun and therefore used to denote ownership.

It is THEIR turn, not yours.
Get out of THEIR way.

THEY'RE is a pronoun and a verb connected by an apostrophe to denote a contraction of two words: THEY ARE. Remember what I said about losing contraction privileges if you cannot use the contracted form of pronoun and verb properly; you must spell out both words: THEY ARE.

Why should I let them have THEIR turn when THEY'RE not sharing?
THEY'RE in my way. I'm not in THEIR way.

THERE is a designation of place.

It's over THERE.
I want to go THERE.

THERE can also be a verb, adverb or noun according to Merriam-Webster's dictionary. Unless you're typing very fast and aren't paying attention to what you're doing, there is really no reason to mix up these three words, and that is where most grammar goofs come from, not taking enough time to think what goes on the page.

THERE is no reason to mistake THEIR intentions when THEY'RE not taking the time to do it right. I was always taught that it is a waste of time -- mine and yours -- not to do things right the first time.

Grammar doesn't have to be difficult or take a lot of time if you slow down to cruising speed when writing anything. The more often you do it right, the less often you'll make simple grammar goofs.

Until next week, when I hope to have more time to get into a subject that worries many writers (commas), here's hoping your grammar goofs are few. All it takes is a little time to do it right.

No comments: