English spelling is not easy for anyone learning English as a second language. It may surprise you to learn that many native English speakers are not good at spelling in their native language. They know that spelling is very important for writing a job application or an essay for university exams and bad spelling can make them seem uneducated or lacking basic English skills.
The following spelling mistakes are more serious because they also reveal poor grammar. However, don’t worry! The grammar is basic and easily learnt. Let’s have a look at the problem words:
a) they’re, there, their
All have the same pronunciation: UK /ðeər/ US /ðer/
♦ they’re – contraction of they are: they (pronoun) + are (verb)
♦ there – adverb of place
There are two women in the picture on the right.
There is no sign of rain.
They left their swimsuits over there.
♦ their – possessive adjective, always followed by a noun
What are their names?
What are their children’s names?
Their hair is dark and curly.
b) we’re, where
There are two correct pronunciations of we’re (1): UK /wɪər/ US /wɪr/
♦ we’re – contraction of we are: we (pronoun) + are (verb)
♦ where – adverb, conjunction, question word
The two men in the photo met recently but I don’t know where.
Could you tell me where they are from?
Where are they from? They’re from Knoxville, USA.
c) you’re, your
Both have the same pronunciation: UK strong /jɔːr/ weak /jər/ US /jʊr/ /jɚ/
♦ you’re – contraction of you are: you (pronoun) + are (verb)
You’re an English student, aren’t you? Perhaps, you’re a writer?
If you’re studying English, you’re sure to find some helpful tips on this website.
♦ your – possessive adjective, always followed by a noun
Your time is valuable. I’m interested in your English progress, so you’re very welcome to write to me with any questions. Just click on Contact Me at the top of this page.
Lily: You’re so lucky to live in Barcelona. Your city is magnificent!
Isabela: You’re still going to visit during the term break, aren’t you?
Lily: I’d love to but your apartment is tiny. I should book a hotel nearby.
Isabela: You’re doing no such thing! You can sleep on the couch if that’s okay. There’s so much to do in Barcelona! We can rent red vespas and do cooking courses for starters. Then we can go skydiving.
Lily: Skydiving! You’re joking! I can’t ride a vespa and you know I can’t cook! You’re crazy Isabela but thanks for the couch though.
Isabela: You’re welcome!
d) it’s, its
Pronunciation: UK /ɪts/ US /ɪts/
♦ it’s– contraction of it is OR it has: it (pronoun) + is (verb) OR has (verb)
It’s is a contraction just like you’re and we’re and they’re (he’s, she’s, etc). Like them, it must have an apostrophe (’ ) to replace the missing letter/s.
The little monkey thinks it’s going to fall.
The little monkey thinks it is going to fall.
It’s been holding on for a long time.
It has been holding on for a long time.
♦ its – possessive adjective, always followed by a noun, never has an apostrophe
Its is a possessive adjective just like your and their (her, his, etc). Like them, it does not have an apostrophe. There are no missing letters.
The monkey is riding on its mother’s back. The monkey is riding on her back.
Look at its funny ears!