Five common grammatical mix-ups explained

Some people don’t care about grammar, while others make it their bugbear. As those that do care about your grammar can be people that you are trying to impress, it’s probably best to learn those grammar rules. Below, you will learn how to correctly use some different, but similar words.

You’re and Your

‘You’re’ is a contraction of the words ‘you are’. As ‘are’ is a form of the verb ‘to be’, ‘you’re’ should be used to talk about the state of being of a single person to whom the sentence’s narrator is referring. On the other hand, ‘your’ refers to the possessive pronoun. That is, ‘your’ indicates that this object belongs to a single person of whom the sentence’s narrator is referring.

“You’re in my chair.”
“Sorry, I didn’t know that this was your chair.”

They’re, Their, and There

In parallel to ‘you’re’ and ‘your’, the first two words are a contraction (they’re) and a possessive (their) respectively. However, in this case, ‘their’ is a possessive adjective, not a pronoun, so it would actually be used to describe a noun, and not as a noun. ‘There’, on the other hand, is an adverb that is used to talk about a noun’s location.

“Where is their house?”
“It is over there.”
“Where are they?”
“They’re at school right now.”

It’s and Its

The difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’ is similar to that of ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ and ‘they’re’ and ‘their’. ‘It’s’ is a contraction of ‘it is’ and ‘its’ is a possessive (adjective or pronoun). Thus, ‘it is’ is used to speak of the state of being of an object or animal in a sentence, and ‘its’ is used to say something belongs to an object or animal.

“It’s a cute dog.”
“Thanks! I am its (the dog’s) owner.”

Then and Than

It may seem that there isn’t really a difference between these two or that their spellings are simply different due to regional spellings (such as British English vs. American English). However, neither of these ideas is true. ‘Then’ is used when talking about ‘time’ and ‘than’ is used when talking about comparison. One way to remember this is ‘th(e)’ and ‘tim(e)’, and ‘th(a)’ and ‘comp(a)rison’).

“Perhaps we can go to dinner and then go to a movie.”
“A movie alone is much cheaper than a dinner and a movie, though.”

Who and Whom

‘Who’ always refers to the direct object and ‘whom’ always refers to the indirect object. To explain further, most sentences have a direct object and one or more indirect objects. The direct object is the noun doing an action and the indirect object(s) is acted upon by the direct object. For example, in the sentence ‘The dog chewed the ball’, the dog is the direct object and the ball is the indirect object.

“Who is the recipient of this letter?”
“The man whom I love is the recipient.”

Hopefully, these definitions have assisted you on your journey to perfect grammar. By the way, if you already knew the differences between these words along with many other grammatical rules, consider applying to write for Words of Worth.

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