More Confusable Word Pairs

Some of the most confusable words in English are also the most common. They sound the same, but have different meanings and spellings. Here are a few suggestions for sorting through the trickier word pairs.

their vs. there

‘Their’ is a possessive adjective; it shows ownership and describes nouns. Two sisters are playing in a sandbox that belongs to both girls. You’d say, “Mary and Pat are playing in their sandbox.” Other examples of ‘their’ describing nouns: their dolls, their money, their house.

Its sound-alike, ‘there’, is an expression of place, an adverb answering the question, “Where?” It’s also used as pronoun that introduces a sentence. Examples: “My car is parked over there in the shade.” (adverb) “There is only so much time in the day.” (pronoun)

its vs. it’s

‘Its’ is a possessive pronoun, one that shows ownership. ‘It’s’ is a contraction that means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’. Here are samples of proper usage:
“The cat licked its paws after finishing its supper.”
“It’s a long way from Texas to New York.”‘
“It’s been a beautiful day.”
Still can’t decide which to use? Tip: If you can substitute his/her for ‘its’ in a sentence, you’ve chosen correctly.

you’re vs. your

‘You’re’ is a contraction, the shortened form of ‘you are’. ‘Your’ is a possessive pronoun showing ownership. These sentences contrast the difference between the two: “Your cattle are in the pasture, but you’re going to herd them into the barn tonight.” “Take your complaints to the manager.” “Show him you’re in charge.”