The following is a post from contributing writer, Julianna, of Petunia June.
Like many others, my kids often struggle with the usage of three notorious words: there, their, and they’re. And for good reason! They all sound the same, and they’re kind of tricky to use. To assist my children, I devised a fun memory tool. It’s rather silly, but maybe it will help some other learners out there, too.
When the word “there” is appropriate, imagine this scenario:
You see a person in need of immediate medical assistance. You gingerly approach and stammer, “Um . . er . . . um . . . er . . . You seem to be bleeding all over the place! Maybe you should go over there . . . to the ER!”
You may notice the subtle triple usage of “er” — the two letters that appear in the middle of “there.” We are reminded to go to the emergency room over there.
If it’s somewhere you can go, then the word “there” should be used.
Next we have “their.” For this word we get to envision dear Old MacDonald and his farm. You know, the E-I-E-I-O fellow.
Imagine that you are introducing Mr. and Mrs. MacDonald’s animals to someone. “This is their goat,” you say. And, because it’s the MacDonalds’ farm, you must include a little yodel: “E-I-E-I-O!”
You continue. “This is their cow. E-I-E-I-O! And this is their pig. E-I-E-I-O!”
Again, take note of the “ei” placement in the middle of the word “their” (hence the charming yodel).
If it can belong to someone, the way a pig belongs to the Old MacDonalds, then the word “their” should be used.
That leaves us with “they’re,” which is not as convoluted (or, sadly, as entertaining) to explain.
The word they’re looks like two words chopped and hooked together. That’s because it is two words chopped and hooked together. When shortened into a contraction, they are becomes they’re.
And there you have it! That’s how we think about words over here in our little homeschool room. I do hope that some of these silly memory cues might be of help to other fellow learners out there. Because it certainly would be a shame if we were the only homeschoolers yodeling about emergency rooms, pigs, and chopping.
When not creating embarrassing grammatical ditties for her children, Julianna can be found writing at Petunia June.