Help for Correct English Usage
Some of the trickiest words in the English language are short, seemingly simple combinations of letters which sound the same as others that have DIFFERENT meanings. These commonly confused words are called homophones (“same sounds”). Let’s learn how to swat down the most frequently mixed-up ones — it’s vs. its, your vs. you’re, and there vs. their and they’re — so that your writing can sparkle with perfection!
“Your” vs. “You’re”
“Your” means “belonging to you,” while “you’re” is a contraction of “you” and “are” in order to mean: “You are.” If you are ever unsure about which one to use, just do the test: “Do I mean ‘You are?'” If so, use “you’re.”
Your and You’re in a Sentence
Here’s an example sentence showing how to use both words correctly: Your octopus (the octopus belonging to you) has escaped, and you’re (you are) going to spend the next three hours looking for it!
“It’s” vs. “Its”
“It’s” means “it is” (it’s a contraction of those two words), and “its” means, “Belonging to it.” This is are commonly confused words, because usually “belonging” words have an apostrophe before the “s” — but not “its!”
It’s and Its in a Sentence
Here’s an example of a sentence using them both correctly: It’s (it is) the middle of the night, and I know the monster has come to eat my veggies, because I hear its hairy paw (the paw belonging to it) prying open the refrigerator door.
“Their” vs. “They’re” vs. “There”
“Their” means “belonging to them.” “They’re” means “they are” (in contraction form). “There” refers to location, as in where something is.
A Sentence with Their, They’re and There
Here’s an example sentence using them all correctly: Their drawings (the drawings belonging to them) were on the shelf over there (the location), but now they’re (they are) gone because a purple whale jumped out of the ocean and gobbled them up — not even saying sorry!”
Common Editing Mistakes Worksheet
Want a printable (or electronic) four-page interactive lesson on more of the most commonly confused words? Click to see this grammar and editing worksheet from my online store, which gets high reviews! I hope you find it as useful and enjoyable as my students do.
There are lots of other frequent mistakes in that worksheet, from “apart vs. a part” to “whose vs. who’s” to “passed vs. past,” and “everyday vs. every day.” You can also click on those links to see my free online lessons — good for kids and adults alike — about how to use those words correctly.
VIDEO: It’s vs. Its, Your vs. You’re, and They’re vs. Their and There
More English Language Arts Lessons:
Curious to see other educational cartoons from this friendly middle school ELA teacher and artist, Lillie Marshall? (Don’t be frightened by the fact that I teach 7th grade — these articles are good for all ages.) Check them out here:
- Former vs. Latter
- Tone vs. Mood
- What is Context?
- Topic vs. Theme
You’re Welcome to Give Your Requests!
Want other concepts illustrated — either ELA or life? Do use the comment section below to make your request…
The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other two sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009) and TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010). Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!