In the age of Twitter and texting, grammar and spelling often take a back seat. When native speakers make these common mistakes, it seems hopeless that non-native speakers will learn proper English with so many poor role models out there on the internet. Teachers need to be role models in their classrooms, so that all of their students learn correct spelling and grammar, and good habits are perpetuated, not bad.
Your is the possessive form, as in your book or the book belonging to you. You’re is short for you are.
I think people often type your for you are as almost a shorthand, because it takes less characters. I know I have caught this particular error even in my own posts (which I always quickly correct), and it irks me just as much when I see other people do it as when I do it myself. The problem is misusing words like this starts to ingrain bad habits into the language, making it lose its integrity and even logic. Sure, they sound the same, but we would lose just a little bit of linguistic clarity if your ever took over as both the possessive form and the short form of you are.
There refers to place, as in over there. Their is the possessive pronoun, as in Their dog is friendly. They’re is the short form of they are.
I think these get confused more out of laziness than anything else. Most non-native speakers I have worked with have little to no difficulty distinguishing between the three. Again, I think our lack of wanting to use the apostrophe and simply not paying attention to what we type is mostly to blame.
Than is used for comparisons, as in He is bigger than I am. Then refers to a sequence of actions: She cooked the dinner, and then he did the dishes.
One easy way to remember the difference is then has an e in it for ‘event,’ as in a sequence of events. We went to the zoo, and then had an ice cream.
Its is the possessive pronoun, as in its main function. It’s is the short form of it is.
Again, internet laziness is probably more often than not the culprit on this one. That darn apostrophe just takes too long to type! But if you’re generally confused about possessives versus apostrophes, always ask yourself if you can separate the words to it is and if your sentence makes sense. Its too hot outside is incorrect. It’s too hot outside is correct because what I am really saying is IT IS too hot outside.
Whenever you are confused about whether you should have an apostrophe, ask yourself if you can separate out the words and whether they make sense in your sentence.
To is the preposition, often used with verbs as in to write or to play. Too is an adverb of degree, often modifying an adjective: too much money.
This one is easy to remember. If you mean there was a lot of something, you need an extra o. As in, I drank too much coffee. The only other time you use too is to mean also, as in My sister is coming, too. In all other instances, you use to.
This one gets confused more often than it should, in my opinion. Lose means to misplace something and is pronounced [luz], according to IPA. Loose means not tight, or hanging freely and is pronounced [lus]. One way to remember the difference is if you lose something, your missing o represents the thing you lost.
Used to show possession of a group or a name: the company’s policy or Sarah’s bike.
Apostrophes are one of the most misused and misunderstood parts of grammar. People often use them to mean plurals, and they are only applied to plurals when referring to letters: dot your i’s and cross your t’s. You will see mistakes like company’s when what the writer actually means is the plural, companies. As my middle school English teacher taught me, Keep It Simple, Silly. Less is always more, and I therefore adhere to the rule that if a word ends in s and you need to show possession, do not add another s after the apostrophe. For example, the boss’ agenda. Because doesn’t writing the boss’s agenda look a little silly?
One other point on apostrophes: please don’t add them to already possessive pronouns! That book is hers says everything you need! It is incorrect to say That book is her’s.
Do you have any pet peeves when it comes to spelling and grammar? Comment below on what either gets you confused or frustrated when you see it used incorrectly.