I posted a status on Facebook last night after what I thought was the last straw. The status was about the difference between “then” and “than.”
Now before you jump the gun here, I’ve always found myself annoyed with this mix-up long before I took the grammar class. The problem now is that Facebook gives me a daily reminder of just how many people do not know the difference between the two.
Upon posting the status, a host of other people commented on it with their own grievances between ignorant, for lack of a better word, people and the English language. I realised that I could probably go on for days, and decided that I would write a blog instead.
First and foremost; the homophone.
-n. a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not
This includes, but is not limited to, their/there/they’re, your/you’re, here/hear, know/no, through/threw, and of course, then/than.
Their, There, They’re
1. “Their” is possessive. You should only use it when you are speaking of something belonging to them. Ex: their house, their car.
2. “There” is for direction. This means that it is used when pointing something out, i.e. a location. Ex: The book is there. She is standing over there. There it is!
3. “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.” The apostrophe signifies that letters are omitted, which is the main use of an apostrophe. (Disclaimer: It cannot be used for “they were.”) Apostrophes are also used for possession, which might explain a confusion between this and “their.” Just remember “their” is an irregular, just like “his” and “hers” which are the singular versions to “their.” Ex: They’re sleeping. They’re going to the beach today.
1. “Your” is governed by the same rules as “their.” It is the possessive case for “you.” Ex: This is your bag. You forgot your pencil.
2. “You’re” is just like “they’re.” It stands for “you are.” Ex: You’re going to be late for class if you do not hurry.
As for “hear” and “here” why do I even have to explain that one? It is such a shame that college students do not know the difference, but here goes.
1. “Here” is also used for location, just as “there.” Ex: Your shoes are right here. I will be standing here for hours.
2. “Hear” is what you do with your ears. Ex: Can you hear me?
1. To “know” is to be aware of. (Just think of “knowledge.”) Ex: I know how to count. It is a verb and should be used as such.
2. “No” is used to express denial, disapproval, or refusal. Ex: No you cannot go out. I have no school tomorrow. There is no way I will go.
1. When something is “through” it is over with. It also can be used for something that has gone from one side to the other or has gone beyond something. Ex: She graduated and was through with school. The train went through the tunnel.
2. “Threw” is the past tense for “throw.” This is when you propel something in the air, cause something to fall, or move a light switch Ex: I threw the frisbee. She threw me on the floor. The man threw on the light switch. It can also be used as a colloquial for something intangible. Ex: He threw me a smile. She threw a couple bad words at me.
Last, but certainly not least, “then” vs “than.”
1. “Then” is used for sequence i.e if you are directing someone or telling a story. The use of “then” indicates that something else is coming. Ex: I went to the beach and then went home. I plan to go to work and then go home.
2. “Than” is used for comparison. Ex: She is smarter than me. I would like to see you sooner than later.
In reality, “then” and “than” are not really homophones if they are pronounced correctly. The confusion comes from those who do not enunciate. They actually say sooner “then” later, as opposed to emphasising the “a” and saying “than.”
I have much more to add to my list of pet peeves, but we will stop with the homophones for now.