Usage of they,their,they’re

There are many words that are constantly misused like: there, they’re or their. But in order to use them correctly you have to first know what they mean!

Here is a rough guide…

There indicates a place or a situation.

Example: There is so much I have to do before I go on vacation.

They’re is a contraction of the two words: they are.

Example: They’re a wonderful couple and it is such a pleasure to be with them.

Their is a plural possessive: something that belongs to more than one person. If you can substitute more than one name (or thing) and not change the meaning of the sentence, then use their.

Example: Raja and Rani lost their father last week.Similarly a lot of us don’t use the words that and which in the right context.

The rule of thumb would be to use which when the phrase is merely an add-on thought or not essential.

Example: She bought me a lovely vase, which was made of terracotta.

The sentence She bought a lovely vase is complete in itself made of terracotta is not essential in completing the sentence and is just an add-on.

If made of terracotta was essential to the sentence you would use that. Example: Do buy that vase that is made of terracotta.

Now the phrase made of terracotta is needed as it specifies the particular vase to be bought.



Learn to be precise

This article is published in the Tuesday  issues of Deccan Chronicle .

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

The two words that you should keep in mind when you are writing are precision and clarity. Avoid long words and sentences. Remember you are writing to make your audience feel, think and be one with your story/essay and not to show them that you know your vocabulary! So choose the right word and make sure it fits into the context of what you are saying. After you have written your story or essay, read it and ask yourself what every word means. Long words like those ending in -ation,-lity, -ise, -isation, -ational tend to make your writing laborious and difficult to understand. Therefore use them as little as possible. Ask yourself if you can make your sentence shorter and crisper by removing these words.
Example: The student brought about the organisation of the school assembly.
Right usage: The student organised the school assembly.
Example: The usage of the words baffled many.
Right usage: The use of the words had many baffled.

Words like usage, methodology and functionality should be changed to a simpler method. Be specific in the choice of your words. Never use vague language.
Example: The newspaper industry made apparent significant financial gains this year.
Right usage: The newspaper industry made a lot of money OR the newspaper industry showed large profits.


This article is published in the monday issues of  Times of India.This article was written by Dr V Saraswathi.

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

Could you imagine the longest sentence in English ? You simply can’t , because a sentence could extend up to infinity with the help of conjunctions.

Let’s imagine you are narrating the story of a recent Tamil film. You could say it in one long sentence: the hero met the heroine and fell in love with her and then the villain came and fought with the hero but the hero killed the villain and saved the heroine and married her and they lived happily ever after.

What are conjunctions They are words that join two sentences or two clauses.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And I chose the one less travelled by.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep.

To be, or not to be,

That’s the question.

In the above famous quotations, you find the conjunctions and, but and or. They are called co-coordinating conjunctions as they join two main or coordinate clauses.

And suggests addition.

Is that the police” asked a frantic voice at the other end of the line.

Yes , sir, this is the police station,” replied the inspector on duty.

Oh ! Thank God! I want to report a robbery in the neighbourhood and the thief is trapped in an old lady’s bedroom. Please come quickly,” said the voice.

And who’s calling, please” the inspector asked.

There was a momentary silence at the other end. Then the voice whispered, “The thief !” .

In informal American English, and is sometimes dropped after the base form.

Let’s go see if Anne’s here.

Go jump in the river!

Come sit beside me.

But is used to indicate contrast as seen in the text below:

Management notice to employees


This will be accepted as an excuse, but we would like two weeks notice as we feel it is your duty to teach someone your job prior to or after death.

When you would like to suggest an alternative, you use or.

Teacher: Is America further away from us or is the moon at a greater distance?

Student: America!

Teacher: America ? Whatever gave you this idea

Student: Simple! We can always see the moon, from India, but not America!

When expressions are joined by and, but, or, we often leave out repeated words or phrases of various kinds.

Antique or modern furniture.

In France, Germany or Spain.

She can read, but can’t write.

The food and drinks are ready.

Phil and Sally washed the dishes.