Five Common Usage Mistakes to Avoid – Sheet 1 of 8
#1) Too, To & Two
The easiest of these should be two (2). It’s the number, and it’s one of the first words we learn. The problem is more often to vs. too. To is a preposition, usually used for either direction or relationship between two items. Too most often means either “also” (He likes candy too) or to show excess (They’re too mean, too much candy). The cheap mnemonic trick here is that too, with the extra o, is the one to use if you are discussing extra amounts (I am extra hungry – I am too hungry, I am an extra traveler – I am coming too)
#2) Its vs. It’s
This error becomes a non-issue once you remember that the most common function of the apostrophe is to indicate a missing letter or number. For example, doesn’t, of course, is short for does not, with the apostrophe in doesn’t standing in for the missing o. Also, Dunkin’ Donuts is short for Dunking Donuts. With this rule in mind, you can remember that it’s is short for it is, with the apostrophe filling in for the missing i. The possessive its, meaning “belonging to it,” does not have a missing letter, so it doesn’t need an apostrophe.
#3) Your vs. You’re
Following the same rule for apostrophe usage stated above, this should be easier to keep track of. The apostrophe in you’re stands in for the missing A that was taken out to make the contraction. So you’re is the contraction for you are, while your is a possessive adjective meaning belonging to you.
#4) Their, There & They’re
Still following the same pattern established above, the apostrophe in they’re stands in for the missing A in they are. Their is a possessive adjective meaning belonging to them while there most often either shows direction (go there) or begins a clause (There are many countries). Two mnemonic tricks to distinguish these two: 1) Here and There go together; Here is not there, but it is in there (get it? THERE) 2) People who are heirs will inherit what is theirs.
Let’s knock out the easy one, following the logic established in the previous three. We’re is a contraction for we are, as the apostrophe indicates. Were, without the apostrophe, is a past tense form of the verb to be (Where were you? We were here). Where indicates location or begins a question of location. Piggybacking on the there/their memory trick, Here and Where go together: (WHERE were you? We were HERE). And Wear is what you do with your clothes.