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And here’s #10 in Larry’s David Letterman Top Ten format: Contractions & Homonymic Convergence. I like big words; don’t you?

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The first of a ten-part series.

#10. They’re, Their Now: Contractions & Homonymic Convergence

Our ears (and eyes) play dirty tricks on us when it comes to contractions and the words that sound like them. The process can cause us great anxiety as we think back to our eighth-grade English class and try to recall the rules Ms. Bitterlip laid out for us.

I encounter these examples most often:

  • They’re, Their, There, There’re
    • they’re = a contraction of they are:
      They’re going to the concert.
    • their = a pronoun relating to two or more people, especially in the sense of possession, ownership, or belonging to them:
      That is their house.
    • there = a place: He is standing over there.
      or a point in a process: There is where I disagree with you.
    • there’re = a contraction of there are:
      There’re four items in the shopping cart.

grammar_cow

  • You’re, Your, Yore
    • you’re = a contraction of you are:
      You’re going where?
    • your = a pronoun relating to you or belonging to you:
      Is that your house?
    • yore =  a time long past:
      Once upon a time, in the days of yore . . .
  • It’s vs. Its
    • it’s = a contraction of it is:
      It’s your turn.
    • its = a pronoun relating to an object, especially in the sense of possession or belonging to, or of an action:
      The legislature passed the law, its final enactment of the session.
  • Could’ve, Should’ve
    • Could’ve is the contracted form of “could have”: She could have gone home.
    • Should’ve is the contracted form of “should have”: She should have gone home.
    • incorrect: She could of gone home.
    • incorrect: She should of gone home.
    • correct: She could’ve gone home.
    • correct: She should’ve gone home.
  • Let’s vs. Lets
    • let’s = a contraction of let us
      Let’s go for a walk.
    • lets =  third-person singular form of the verb let: to permit or allow
      Having a dog lets me sleep soundly at night.
  • Here’s and There’s
    • here’s = a contraction of here is; it refers to a single item or instance
    • there’s = a contraction of there is; it refers to a single item or instance

I probably hear these contractions more often than I see them in print, but it bugs me nonetheless: singular construction used in a plural context, even by otherwise apparently literate individuals and those who make a living speaking to the public.

  • incorrect: Here’s three reasons for that.
  • incorrect: There’s three reasons for that.
  • correct: Here are three reasons for that. Or, when speaking (not recommended for written form, unless in dialogue): Here’re three reasons for that.
  • correct: There are three reasons for that. Or, when speaking (not recommended for written form, unless in dialogue): There’re three reasons for that.

If you have examples or anecdotes you want to share with me and others, please use the comment box at the bottom of the page.

References & Resources

Reposted from Polishing Your Prose.