Commonly Confused Words

Traps for Those New to English

There, their and they’re

To be fair, the common misuse of these words is usually the result of typos and the writer not concentrating; than of confusion with the meanings. But, because the pronunciation of the three words is the same (homophones!), it’s often difficult for some people to remember which one to use in which situation.

there – this refers to placement

    I’ve heard that Bali has great beaches, but I’ve never been there.

their – this is the possessive form of “them”

    They took their surfboards along to California.

they’re – this is a contraction of “they are”

    They’re not staying in the hotel this week.

Your and You're

Again, the misuse of these two words often comes not from ignorance, but rather from laziness or not concentrating.

Your – is a possessive adjective.

    Don’t forget to call your mother!

You’re – is a contraction for “You are”

    You’re not going to join us for lunch?

i.e. and e.g.

These are Latin abbreviations. Because so few people study Latin anymore, the meanings and proper use of these two abbreviations seem to be getting lost. Let’s clear it up!

i.e. is short for the latin term “id est” which means “that is”.

You should use i.e. when you want to briefly explain or clarify what you just said or wrote.

    "You must register for our course within two days to qualify for the discount, i.e. by Wednesday".

When you want to give one or more examples of what you are talking about, then use e.g. (“exempli gratia”)

    I’d love to visit some of the larger cosmopolitan cities in America e.g. Chicago, New York, Los Angeles.

These days, many people write eg. and ie. instead of e.g. and i.e.

According to grammarians this is becoming acceptable. However, a clear understanding and ability to use them correctly is important!

to, too and two

Two, everyone knows, is the number 2. "There are only two people in that band."

Too – can be used in two (2) ways:

    As an adverb describing an adjective: too hot, too cold, too big, too small
      She’s too small to go on the roller coaster.

    Too meaning “also”

      My sister said she is going to the concert next week, so I think I will go too.

We won’t go into all the uses of “to” here, but if it doesn’t mean “2” or “also”, then you can assume you use “to” (not “two” or “too”).

    I think I would like to go to Asia to teach English to the businessmen at Mitsubishi.

who’s and whose

Whose is the possessive form of who (or, occasionally, which). It means "belonging to whom or which."

Who's is a contraction of "who is" or "who has". An apostrophe replaces the missing letters.

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