They’re vs. There vs. Their

Which one is correct?
A) Their on they’re own there.
B) There on their own they’re.
C) They’re on their own there.

If you guessed C, give yourself a gold star!

These homophones are often mixed up, but it’s actually very easy to remember which is which.

First, they’re — the odd one with the apostrophe. Remember that one job of the apostrophe is to take the place of a missing letter. In this case, it’s taking the place of the “a” in “are”.

Second, there. You know that “there” is a place, and “here” is a place, too. Just remember that “there” is “here” with a “t” in front.

That leaves their. It’s a possessive (it shows ownership) pronoun, like my, your, his, her, its, and our. It contains the noun “heir”. You can make an easy rhyme to remember this one: Will and Kate just gave birth to their heir to the throne.

In a nutshell:
They’re = they are
There = “t” + here
Their = T(heir)


Lose vs. Loose

I see loose being used so often in place of lose, and sometimes vice-versa. “He’s a looser” – ouch! That hurts my eyes.  Here’s how you can remember when to use which.

It’s all about visualizing the letter “o.”

Loose rhymes with moose and goose. It is an adjective which can also be formed into looser and loosest. There’s also an adverb form, loosely. Think of the letter “o” as being fabric. If you have double fabric, your pants will be bigger. They will be loose, and you’ll have plenty of room for both legs.

Lose rhymes with ooze and shoes. It is a verb, with past tense, lost. The noun form is loser. Think of fabric again. If an “o” goes missing, you have less fabric, and the pants will be tighter. If you lose fabric, maybe you’ll only have room for one leg.

OO = two legs = loose. O = one leg = lose.

Can you guess which words are correct in the sentences below?

  1. The (lose/loose) goose ate chocolate mousse.
  2. Beck sang, “I’m a (loser/looser) baby, so why don’t you kill me?”
  3. If the Giants (lose/loose) this game, they won’t go to the World Series.
  4. Although these shirts are (lose/loose), the ruffled one is (loser/loosest).
  5. When I (lose/loose) weight, my skirt will fit (loser/loosely).
  6. The prisoner got (lose/loose) but was a sore (loser/looser) when he got caught.

Help Wanted: Apostrophe

Our ancient, yet ever-evolving organization is looking for a dependable apostrophe (’) who understands its place in our structure and improves the quality of communication for all English speakers. You will be successful in this position if you are eager to step in and help where needed but will not try to force yourself where you don’t belong.

Key responsibilities:

  • DO fill in for missing letters and numbers – Sometimes letters and numbers need vacations. Your job is to hold their place while they are away.  Examples: isn’t (is not), ‘til (until), int’l (international); ‘60s (1960s), ‘40s (1940s).
  • DO show ownership – Saying “belongs to” every time is a time-wasting, frivolous use of resources. Therefore, you will often work with “s” to end words to show possession. Examples: Mary’s shoe (the shoe that belongs to Mary), the dog’s bone (the bone that belongs to the dog). Please note: To further increase workplace efficiency, you will work alone if the word already ends in “s.” Examples: Chris’ beer (the beer that belongs to Chris), the giraffes’ necks (the necks that belong to the giraffes).

Conditions for dismissal:

  • DON’T indicate plurals – Words are very sensitive. If you try to force yourself into the middle of a perfectly good plural word, they feel like you are trying to stab them in the gut. Examples: forks, musicians, hedgehogs. These words are complete, so don’t try to take the place of something that isn’t missing.
  • DON’T show ownership in possessive pronouns – Our staff of personal possessive pronouns (yours, his, ours, etc.) are all highly educated and can do their jobs by themselves. Like plurals, they are complete words and have a low tolerance for pain.

To apply for this position: Please submit your résumé and a cover letter that indicates which of the following sentences use(s) apostrophes correctly:

a)      I understand the do’s and don’ts of this job.
b)      Mary’s Bloody Mary’s are the best in town.
c)      It wasn’t ‘til the ‘90s that CDs became popular.
d)      Parking’s available to customer’s only.
e)      That sheet music from the 1700’s isn’t your’s, is it?