Author Archive

Hold the Homophone; Am I Doing This Right?

February 27, 2012


There are a bunch of those pesky words, homophones, that sound so similar that they are super easy to use incorrectly. Here is a quick rundown of some common ones, so you can know when to lie and when to lay (and all that good stuff).


Affect vs. Effect:

Affect (verb)—to do something that influences someone or something. Example: My dog’s death affected me deeply.


Effect (verb)—to make something happen. Example: Even small acts of kindness can effect great change.


Effect (noun)—a result or a reaction. Example: The special effects in that movie were stunning.


Its vs. It’s:

Its (adjective, possessive)—shows that something belongs to someone/something else. Example: The English Department shows its appreciation for students every semester by having a picnic.


It’s—a contraction of “it” and “is.” Example: It’s important to RSVP so your host will know how much food to prepare.


Lay vs. Lie

Lay, Laid (present, past verb)—to put or set something down. Example: You can lay the present on that table with the other gifts. She laid the present down on the table.

Lie, Lay (present, past verb)—for a person or creature to recline or rest in a horizontal position. Example: I think I will go lie down for a quick nap. Yesterday I lay down on the beach, sun tanning all afternoon.


Then vs. Than

Then (adverb)—after something has happened; next. Example: First I have to go to the grocery store; then I will go over to Mark’s house.


Than (conjunction/preposition) – used when comparing. Example: The vegetarian pizza was much better than the pepperoni.


There vs. Their vs. They’re

There (adverb)—used to describe a location. Example: Set your backpack down over there and come help me make some cookies.


Their (possessive adjective)—belonging to people, animals, or things. Example: May neighbors asked me to take care of their pets while they are out of town this weekend.

They’re—a contraction of “they” and “are.” Example: My neighbors said they’re going to bring me back a souvenir for taking care of the pets.


To vs. Too vs. Two


To—used with the basic form of a verb to make the infinitive. Example: He likes to read, to cook, and to enjoy the company of good friends.


To (preposition)—toward or in the direction of. Example: I went to bed late last night because I had to study for midterms.


Too (adverb)—more than is needed or wanted. Example: There is too much salt in the soup.


Too (adverb)—also. Example: Saundra and I will go to the movies with you too.


Two—number. Example: The recipe calls for two eggs and a cup of sugar, among other things.


You’re vs. Your


You’re—a contraction of “you” and “are.” Example: You’re going to tell me when I should come over, right?


Your (possessive adjective)—belonging to people. Example: Today, your cat jumped the fence and came to visit me.