“I read good. I was an English major.” -P. J. O’Rourke

If you’re a native English speaker and you cannot be bothered to even try with your own language, well then I don’t know how you expect anyone to listen to what you have to say.

I have previously written about the linguistic labyrinth that is English, but let’s be honest: that was more from the “I’d hate to try to learn this as a second language” perspective. 

So this is the first installment of my coming work, Speak Properly, You Asshole, from a chapter titled: “This is so easy you should be ashamed.”

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First off, we’re going to tackle: “they’re,” “there,” and “their.”

This one drives me up the wall. It’s really not that hard, and each one has a different function. They cannot be used interchangeably. We’ll start easy:

  • “They’re” means “they are.” It’s a contraction. If you are referring to “them” and an action, you need the contraction (look, it rhymes and is pedantic!)
  • “Their” is a pronoun, and is the possessive case of “they.” If what you’re talking about does not belong to “them,” it’s not gonna be “theirs.”
  • “There” is not as cut-and-dry. It has many uses, but notably, it cannot be used in place of the others. So if “they’re” and “their” don’t work, use “there.”

Look, we’re already done! Now let’s move to: “It’s” and “its.”

  • “It’s” means “it is.” If “it is” doesn’t fit, you don’t need the apostrophe, so use “its.”

Holy crap that’s really all there is to it. Seriously, if you mess up that one you just need to take a minute and see how quickly I explained it.

Last one: “Two,” “too,” and “to.”

  • “Two” is a noun, and a number. If you do not want to express a specific number, don’t use “two.”
  • “Too” is an adverb commonly used to express a quantity, excess, or agreement. It’s the only one of the three with more than one vowel, which is still not a good enough excuse to confuse it with “two.”
  • “To” is preposition, and not used to express quantity in any form.

There you go! We’re all done. And remember, if you mess up “two” and “too,” this is how stupid you may look:

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One thought on ““I read good. I was an English major.” -P. J. O’Rourke

  1. Thank you for saying I’ll the things I’ve both been thinking AND calling my friends out for doing when I see it!!!!

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