The war over words can be challenging. Sometimes, words are used so often that the general public "forgets" there is more than one form, use and/or spelling of the word. As an author or writer, it's imperative that you learn the differences. Good editors help you remember the vast world of words, but ignorance is not bliss. Oftentimes, a gentle reminder is needed not just for authors but for everyone. Before you default to your favorite overused word, remember the CORRECT word is out there in this deep universe. Let's explore:
Fiancé vs. Fiancée: I don't know about you, but this is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. Oftentimes, we see the word fiancé so much so that we do not realize it has two different spellings and two different meanings. The meanings are so simple that it will really blow your mind. Fiancé is a MAN who is engaged. Fiancée is a WOMAN who is engaged. Pow! Didn't that blow your mind? Therefore, if Sally is speaking about Jim, who she's engaged to, she'd say..."That's my fiancé." If Jim were speaking about Sally, he'd say..."That's my fiancée." It's really that simple. Before you say, what's the big deal? Just remember that, if you're a man, you wouldn't want someone to call you, Misses Jim or your wife, Mister Sally. In other words, add the E accordingly.
To vs. Too: If the first two words didn't quite ruffle your feathers then these two definitely will! Just as the previous words, these two are pronounced the same and spelled similarly but have two completely different meanings. To (with 1 letter o) is a preposition and means towards, reaching as far as and until. Too (with 2 letter o's) is an adverb and means additionally, excessively, very and extremely. Therefore, there is a difference in: We're going TO the movies (and) We went, TOO! While we're at it, let's add TWO as well. This should be self-explanatory, but just in case, let's cover all bases. The word TWO is brought to you by the number 2. It's the same thing.
You're vs. Your: These two are probably the most commonly misused. The word "Your" gets worn out having to work in double capacity, so let's give it a break. You're is a contraction, and it means YOU ARE. Your is a possessive pronoun meaning it belongs to you. Let's try this out. YOU'RE going to love this. I brought YOUR ball back. It's that simple. Now you know the difference and can proudly say: You're going to bring your famous pasta salad. (Now I'm hungry; are you?)
We're vs. Were: Here are the famous counterparts of the above two words. Just like with you're and your, the words we're and were are often misused. "Were" also gets a major workout and we want to give it a break too. (<<<notice the double o's). We're is a contraction, and it means WE ARE. The word were is the past tense of the verb are. Here we go...example time! WE'RE at the mall. This is different from: We WERE at the mall. The first is present tense. The second is past tense. Don't get stuck in the past!
Then vs. Than: This is the fairly odd couple. They do not sound alike and have completely different meanings, but they are commonly intertwined. I'd like to believe it's a simple spelling error, for the most part or a product of auto-correct woes, but let's go over it all the same. Then is used to show a point in time. Than is a method of comparison. Now it's time to RUN IT as the kiddos say these days. (That's slang so don't use that). Back THEN, we walked to school. I'd rather eat oranges THAN grapefruit. Now we see that these two are as different as comparing apples to oranges or oranges to grapefruit.
Their vs. There vs. They're: Here is the ultimate triple threat! Yes, they are all pronounced the same yet have very different meanings. To keep it simple, we'll break it down to basic English terms. Their is a third person adjective that shows possession (belonging to them). This is THEIR ball. There can be a pronoun, adverb, adjective and a noun. To keep it short, let's use it as a noun which is the most popular definition. I'm not going in THERE. They're is a contraction that stands for THEY ARE and is usually followed by a verb ending in -ing. THEY'RE going to the store. See? The same but different. So whether they're sitting over there reading their books you now know which there, their or they're to use. Bet you had to read that sentence three times!
Congratulations! You've passed Grammar 101. You are now on your way to a reader's (and editor's) dream writer. Show everyone that: My fiancé and I were going to your favorite restaurant, too; rather than going over there. BOOM! Nailed it!
Humor aside, knowing when to use correct grammar and applying it distinguishes storytellers from true writers. It's not a crime to admit that your grammar needs practice. Even the best of us slip up. The disservice is in not attempting to learn and better your craft. Invest in yourself and readers will invest in you.
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Until next time...