Correct Grammar
and the Proper Use of Homophones


What do homophones have to do with correct grammar? Here we will discuss one of the biggest mistakes you can make when using English in speech or writing.

What are homophones?

Homophones are a tricky part of correct grammar. They are words that sound exactly the same but are totally different in meaning. 

They can even be spelled the same way, leading to even greater confusion. 
For example:
  • I got a great present (gift) for Christmas.

    Gift

  • Is the entire class present (here)?

    Here

  • May I present (introduce), Mr. Robert Sutton!

    Introduce


Why is it important to correctly use homophones?

Some of the most commonly used homophones end up being some of the most common grammar mistakes in the English language. 

Homophones are a little confusing at first for ESL students, but learning how to properly use homophones will help you:
  • Avoid making common English grammar mistakes

  • Give you confidence in your English

  • Improve your overall understanding of the English language.


Difficult homophones

These homophones are some of the most difficult there are.

Going over the meanings and spellings of some of the more difficult homophones, will help you to ensure that you do not make this common English grammar mistake.

Their, there and they're

Their:
When we use the word "their," we are saying that something or someone is related or belongs to them.

Examples:
  • Their books are very heavy.
  • My sisters have done their homework. 

There:

This means that someone is speaking about a place. It can be real, conceptual or even imaginary.

Examples:
  • She likes living there.
  • Do they sell sunglasses there?
When "there" is used with any form of the verb to be, it also shows that something is present or that you are talking about something for the first time.

Example:
  • There are three birds living in our apple tree.
  • Did you know that there is a tiger in the zoo?

They're:

This is simply a short form for they are.

Examples:
  • They're my best friends.
  • Bob and Lisa? They're brother and sister.


Two, too and to

The words two, too and to, are also homophones that many people have trouble with.

Going over these homophones will ensure that you will use correct grammar.

Two:
This is the one that's easiest, because it always means number 2. 

The easiest way to know if you are using this correctly is to substitute the word "two" for "2." If the sentence makes sense, it's a match!

Examples:
  • I have two eyes, ears, hands and feet.
  • It's more fun when it's just the two of us.

Too:

There are two (2) ways to use this word:

1. More (and worse because of that). 

Examples:
  • She ate too much candy, and had a stomach ache. 
  • The music is too loud.
2. To mean also or in addition. If you can substitute the word "also" for "too," you are using this word correctly!

Examples:
  • Do you want to go swimming, too?
  • That's Lyndsay's sweater too.
To:
There are also two (2) ways to use the word "to."

1. As a preposition (which connects nouns, pronouns and phrases to other words in a complete sentence) before a noun. It is used to show direction or destination.
 
Examples:
  • Yes, I am going to the party later.
  • Hand it to me, please.
2. We also use "to" before the base form of a verb to make infinitives.

Examples:
  • I want to go home.
  • I need to use the bathroom.

So now you know how to identify and properly use two commonly misused homophones, a very well-known grammar problem. 

Correct grammar is very important, and should become easier and easier for you, the more you understand and practice. Now let's try using homophones correctly! When in doubt, you can always use a good English dictionary.

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