Mrs. Kingsbury, who taught 4th grade English, was a great teacher. Patient, and kind, she wanted her students to understand homonyms. She listed commonly used homonyms on a bulletin board as a visual reference guide for the class. Looking at that board for a full school year helped us remember which words to use when.
Public shaming of homonym misuse is a favorite sport on social media, but you don’t have to be a recipient of ridicule. Do what Mrs. Kingsbury did for us: create an at-a-glance guide to the homonyms that trip you up the most.
This list is not comprehensive, but a short list for you to copy and paste into a document. Now hang it on your office tack board, or turn the document into wallpaper for your computer screen. The constant viewing of the list will place the words into your long-term memory, where the words belong.
May Mrs. Kingsbury rest in peace, and thank you for thinking of us in our hour of homonym need.
THEIR, THERE, THEY’RE:
Their is a pronoun, showing possession as in “Their car is at the shop.”
There is an adverb and means “at that place, or location like “There it is!”
They’re is a contraction for they are as in “They’re going to the store later.”
IT’S AND ITS:
Its is the possessive form of the word it, hence “The snake shed its skin.”
It’s is often confused as the possessive of the word it. Like they’re, it’s a contraction.
TWO, TOO, TO:
Two is the written form of the number 2! One, then two!
Too is an adverb meaning either, also, or an excess of as in “I ate too much, too!”
YOUR, YORE (not used so much in 21st century writing), YOU’RE:
Your is a pronoun and the possessive form of you as in “Your coat is here.”
Yore is a noun and refers to times past. An example is “We talked about knights from the days of yore.”
You’re should be easy to figure out now that we’ve looked at They’re and It’s.
Test: determine the meaning of you’re and write a sentence in the comments that includes them. Ready? Set? Go!