They're language, its effecting me, two!

If you didn’t notice anything wrong with the title of this post, please quit your job, drop out of college, stop whatever you are doing, go find your 3rd grade teacher, and smack them for failing miserably. Seriously. Why is it that I see these mistakes over and over again? I’m not perfect either, but I do pride myself on at least getting most of my mother tongue written down correctly. I have some comma mistakes here and there. Every now and again, I make some small grammatical error. But there are some words out there, that I believe it is extremely important to know the meaning and correct spelling of. Even though everyone that reads it, will still know what you’re trying to say, it is that much more important, that people learn the correct way, so that the incorrect way doesn’t become even more mainstream. So here we go:

  • Their – Possessive. As in: That is their house. That is their car. The house and the car belong to them. Clear?
  • They’re – In the english language, apostrophes usually denote a missing letter and/or a combination of two words. They are. Period.
  • There – Over there. Not here. There. Alright?

Round two:

  • To – “I sent this letter to her.” “Let’s go to the store.”
  • Too – Pretty much a synonym for “also”. “I wanna go, too!” Notice how it always has a comma preceding it in this context? It is also used for extremeties like “I am too tired”.
  • Two – Whoever made up the English language even went to the extra trouble of adding a silent ‘w’ to this word, so that you wouldn’t get it mixed up. This is only used for the number 2.

Round three (this is probably the hardest to remember, therefore the most important):

  • Its – Possessive. Belonging to it. “Its hat.” The hat belongs to it.
  • It’s – Combination of ‘it’ and ‘is’ or ‘has’. “It’s a long way to the top.” or “It’s been a long time since we’ve been there”

Round 4:

  • Effect – This is a noun. Don’t try to use it as a verb. It doesn’t make any sense. “What kind of effect does this have on me?”
  • Affect – This is a verb. “How does this affect me?”

Okay. I hope you all can see that the similarity in pronunciation of these words makes it that much more important to learn the difference between them. Or else pretty soon everyone would be using these words interchangeably in any written context. Oh wait. That already happens. I’m not pointing fingers at individuals that make these mistakes. I am more disgusted at how many teachers didn’t correct them, and how many subsequent high school and college teachers continue to let their students make these mistakes. Am I the only one that had a decent 3rd grade teacher? I see college students make these kinds of mistakes and they don’t get corrected. Just because someone makes a grammar mistake in a Computer Science class, doesn’t mean it isn’t the instructor’s responsibility to correct it. Language isn’t just something for English class. It’s used by everyone everywhere.

Update: Okay, apparantly, everybody doesn’t read my blog, because I just saw another one that hurts… so here is Round 5:

  • Then – This is a time reference. “Now and then”, “Back then”, etc..
  • Than – This is used in comparative statements. “I have more money than you.” “I’m cooler than you!”

I know it’s just one letter difference… but… it’s only one letter… so it shouldn’t be too hard to memorize, okay?


FredAugust 29th, 2006 at 18:03

Good way to remember if there has to be an apostrophe or not: If you can replace it by the long form (they are, or it is, respectively) then you use an apostrophe, otherwise don’t.

Not that hard, one might think.

ZachAugust 29th, 2006 at 22:02

du bist

there, I just fixed the problem

there…I just fixed the problem

fadda monAugust 29th, 2006 at 22:15

I (also being heavily influenced by a foreign language) have trouble with commas. A simple rule, which is easy to remember, is that a comma is used before which but not before that. I.e. bla bla, which bla bla. And bla bla that bla bla. Also: people are referenced with “who” and things with “that” and such. I.e. bla bla people who bla bla. And bla bla computer that bla bla. I agree, the English language (German, zwei, eh zu, ach: I mean auch!) is undergoing rapid simplification in our time, which comes across to me as degradation, or simply poor English and poor German. Pretty sad, I think, when I can write better German than most of my German co-workers. (They do, of course, speak it better than I, but speaking is much more of a real-time thing than writing.) And today there is really no excuse for spelling errors – practically everything written is written with a computer, and practically every program has a spelling checker (or it is easy to cut and paste the text into a program with a spelling checker (NOT a “spell checker” – it has been a long time since I had a spell, let alone needed to check for one :-)

FredSeptember 6th, 2006 at 13:46

Another finding: In the source code of xscreensaver, pacman screensaver:

* 25-Feb-2005: Added bonus dots. I am using a recursive back track algorithm to help the ghost find there way home. (…)

I have to say, I am glad that the ghosts find “there” way home easily now. *aargh*

KarenSeptember 6th, 2006 at 21:08

Oh Justin… you are so funny. Right now, I’m watching a Southern Comfort commercial… I know, very random. Being a linguistics minor, and English minor, I also find myself irritated when people make these kind of mistakes. Since I am going to be a 4th grade teacher this year, I will be sure to correct my students. Does that please you? I hope to ease your soul a little by having you know that there will be 28 4th graders under my guidance. :)

jabbaSeptember 8th, 2006 at 12:38

Yes, that makes me very happy! I am glad to know that at least one teacher will make the effort. :) I’m sure your students will be better off in life knowing the difference is in the details.

FredSeptember 14th, 2006 at 10:09

Another one: To insure vs. to ensure. Read today: There is a new bracelet for alcoholics “insuring 24/7 sobriety”. Interesting, sobriety insurance? 😉

Leave a comment

Your comment