English can be one of the most difficult languages to learn and write properly, especially for students having trouble remembering their grammar rules. Here are some common grammar mistakes and how to avoid them!
They’re vs. Their vs. There
Mixing up these three words is likely to be the most common grammar mistake out there, even for adults! In order to remember when to use each of these properly, it’s also helpful to recall when not to use one. Here are a few helpful tips:
They’re – The easiest way to determine if they’re is being used properly is to recall that it is really a contraction for “they are.” Just test it! If you can’t substitute “they are” in the same spot you want to use they’re, it is not grammatically correct. It will usually be pretty obvious and make the sentence sound rather strange! For example:
“Dogs often lick they are paws.”
Clearly this isn’t right, which limits the student down to two options – there and their.
There vs. Their – To remember these, simply recall that their is always used as a possessive. The previous example works well to highlight this:
“Dogs often lick their paws.”
Since dogs do in fact possess paws, this would be the correct usage of their. On the other hand, there can be trickier because it has more than one usage. For young students, we usually explain there is primarily used as an adverb to describe places:
“The cat is sitting over there.”
Learning to use there for places is a good rule of thumb, but also remember that the word there can also be used as a pronoun:
“There is a rabbit outside.”
And finally, there can also be used as an interjection/exclamation:
“There! Are you happy now?”
Since there has more use cases than they’re and their, we like to teach the elimination method by first testing to see if the latter two options fit.
You’re vs. Your
These two words are commonly mixed up as well, but there’s an easy way to remember them. Similar to the method described above for they’re, recall that you’re is simply a contraction for “you are.” Substitute the full phrase to see if it works! For example:
“Mom said to finish eating you are dinner before watching TV.”
Once again, it’s clear to see this doesn’t make much sense – leaving your as the only remaining option. Just like their, your is also possessive – in the previous example, the dinner belongs to the person being told to finish eating it!
“Mom said to finish eating your dinner before watching TV.”
These two categories of words are the most common grammar mistakes made by students and professionals alike, but they certainly aren’t the only errors to avoid. Here are a few others that are helpful to review:
- Me vs. I
- To vs. Too
- Its vs It’s
We recommend using real life examples and substitution methods (test each variation) to help determine proper usage!