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.



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 .

Rules are made to be broken

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

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

Grammar rules exist as guidelines, so this does not mean that they are written in stone! In other words, some rules can be tweaked. Here are three that can be broken.
Rule no 1: Never begin your sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’. Regardless of how this rule began, it’s alright to start your sentences with ‘and’ or ‘but’. But do keep moderation in mind — you cannot have every sentence beginning with these words!
Rule no 2: Never end your sentence with a preposition. This is a rule that sees many people twisting around their sentences so that they don’t end in a preposition. The grammarian who came up with this rule did not live in the time of blogs, e-mails and Facebook. Here you can — in the interest of readability — end your sentence with a preposition.
Rule no 3: Never split infinitives. This is a rule held sacred by many grammarians. However, the sentence, To go boldly where no man has ever gone before, for example, sounds better than, To boldly go where no man has ever gone before.