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.



Usage of Conjunctions

Linking words/phrases like and,but,because,therefore,if and in order,help us link our ideas together.In traditional grammar,they were called conjunctions.Let us consider: and,also,too,as well,anyway,besides and furthermore.

And is used to join two things,actions or ideas in one sentence.We can use and to join phrases and clauses,as well as sentences.


  • My uncle would never steal.He worked in a bath house and never took a bath for five years.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you;snore and you sleep alone. (Anthony Burgess)

Note: Do not start a sentence with and.

Also is used to link an idea,thing or action to another;this time from the previous sentence.It is placed directly before the verb.


  • They also serve who stand and wait.(Milton)

Note: When we use the auxiliary verbs,can and have,the word also is placed after the auxiliary.


  • We can also dream.We have also won laurels.

Note: With negative statements don’t use also Use either.

Too is used at the end of a sentence,when you are adding something to a list of things you have given in the previous sentence.


“Hold up your right arm,”the judge said.

“Can’t,your honour.Got a shot in it.”

“Then hold up your left arm.

“”Can’t.Got a shot in that too.

“”Then hold up your leg,”the judge said,”No man can be sworn into this court,sir,unless he holds up something.”

Note: Don’t use too with negative statements.Use either.

  • He didn’t smoke or drink.He didn’t gamble either.

As well is used at the end of a sentence,when you’re adding something to a list of things that you have given in the previous sentence.

  • Shakespeare has written 37 plays.He has composed a sonnet sequence as well.

Note: Don’t use as well with two negative statements.Use either.


  • Priya is not coming to the party.Prem can’t come either.

Anyway/Besides is used at the beginning of a sentence,when you have given one reason for something and you want to add another.This is used in informal,especially spoken,contexts.

The following is supposedly a true story.Besides being true,the story is strange,weird,surprising and funny.

A Japanese rancher told reporters,in July,in Tokyo that he herds cattle by outfitting them with pocket pagers (beepers),which he calls from his portable phone.After a week of training,the cows associate beeping with eating and hustle up for grub.

Furthermore is used at the beginning of a sentence,to add a more important fact than the one you gave in the previous sentence.This is used in formal,written contexts.

This article has been written by Dr V Saraswathi for Times of India

Speech supremacy

Sometimes we get confused in our use of two similar words. For example your and you’re. Now both are pronounced alike but the golden rule to remember is that the apostrophe is a substitute for a missing letter— in this case it means you are. The missing word is ‘a’.
Example: Seema told Raja, “You’re really looking good today.”

Your on the other hand is the possessive form of you.
Example: Your car has a flat tyre.

Let us look at another example of the proper use of the words its and it’s.
Its is the possessive form of it.
Example: My cat ate its dinner.

But it’s has an apostrophe so that means the word has a missing letter. The missing letter is ‘i.’
Example: It’s (it is) a beautiful sweater.

We now come to another commonly made mistake. The use of ‘I’ versus ‘me’.
The rule to remember here is that I is a subject pronoun while me is an object pronoun. According to well-known grammarian, Paul Brians,
A subject is the noun/pronoun that performs the action of the verb to which it is linked, while an object is a noun/pronoun that receives the action of the subject-verb pair.”
Example: I threw the ball to you
You kicked the ball to me

Remember to be careful when you use these while creating a compound subject or object
Example: Seema and I went to a film together
Example: You must come with Seema and me

The best way to determine which pronoun to use in such cases is to eliminate the other person and the “and”.

Let’s look at the same examples again
Remove: Seema and
Which is correct? “I/me went to a film together”

Obviously you can’t say me went to a film together — so the correct usage is I. Now put back the removed words — Seema and I went to a film together

Similarly remove Seema and from the second example
Which is correct? You must come with I/me
Obviously you can’t say you must come with I — so the correct usage is You must come with Seema and me.

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

Keep your tenses perfect

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

We all make mistakes, especially in English! Here are some commonly made mistakes — see if you can identify what’s wrong with these sentences…
I’m going walking about once a day.
I am living in Mumbai for seven days.
These are all mistakes which are made time and time again — mixing the tenses.
For example, if you ask someone “
How long have you been in Mumbai?” the answer should be —“I have been in Mumbai for seven daysorI have lived in Mumbai for seven days.
Take the first sentence: “I’m going walking about once a day.
This is incorrect because the tense used here is the present continuous. The correct usage would be… “I go walking about once a day.
The second sentence has one glaring mistake — the use of the present/past perfect tense: “I am living in Mumbai for seven days.The correct usage as mentioned above would beI’ve lived in Mumbai for seven days.
Perfect tenses, are the hardest ones to learn because it is difficult to make someone understand the difference between the present perfect “
I have done something” as opposed to the past “I did something.

Make your sentences interesting

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

Last week we looked at compound and complex sentences. But you’ll find that sentences have much more that you should know about. The first rule should be not to use loose sentences as they will confuse your reader. Second, remember that the main point you are trying to make must not be in the middle of a long sentence.

Example: With the delicious food and the sheer beauty of the landscape, I have always wanted to go to Goa and to this end I am happy to give up my commitments.

The focus of the sentence here is that the writer wants to go to Goa and he is thus ready to give up his involvements wherever he is in order to do so. However, the reader has already got an overkill of information at the beginning of the sentence that makes little sense until he or she reaches the middle of the sentence.

It would have been better to say — I am ready to give up my commitments in the city and go to Goa because of the delicious food and sheer beauty of the landscape.

Here are a few more sentences.
The Periodic Sentence: Here your main point can come at the end of the sentence. But remember that the reader has to read all of this information without knowing what the conclusion will be. Use this only when you want to write in a dramatic but persuasive fashion.

The Declarative Sentence:
Use this as often as possible to add that extra punch to your writing. This type of sentence states a fact or argument, without requiring either an answer or action from the reader.

Example: Seema’s father is Dr Kishore Sharma

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