They’re, Their and There

Here are 3 words that sometimes people get confused: they’re, their and there. They are all pronounced the same way.

They’re is the contraction for ‘they are”.
They’re at the grocery store. (They are at the grocery store.)

Their is the possessive adjective of them.
It’s their book that I love reading so much. (The book belongs to them.)

There refers to a place either concrete or abstract.
Sally hid the gift over there.
There is the pet store.

Here’s a mini quiz to see if you have them straight in your head.

1. I really wanted to try some of _______ cookies.
2. ________ my best friends in the entire world.
3. I want to build my new house right ______.
4. _______ is no place like home.
5. Sue accidentally ate ________ candybars.

1. their
2. They’re
3. there
4. There
5. their


Do any of you have any problem areas in English that you’d like me to write about? Or are there any words that you find difficult to say?

I just wanted to let you all know that you can make requests about what I post about and I’ll be happy to write or record them for you! I’m your own personal English teacher!

So, let me know if you have any English questions at all!

To, too, & two

This post is about 3 different words that are sometimes confused:

To has many roles, like as a preposition or used as part of the infinitive phrase of a verb.
I walked to the store.
He went to the library, so that he could read.
I hope that he helps to clean up this mess.
Sally wanted me to cook her a big cake for her birthday.

Too is an adverb that means also or in excess.
She likes to eat ice cream too.
He was too tired to watch the TV show.

Two is the number 2.
I ate two pieces of cake.

Punctuation in English

A lot of the punctuation is the same for various languages, but a lot of the uses my be different. Even if you feel like you have a grasp on English punctuation, you might want to skim through this to make sure. I’m going to cover the main punctuation marks which serve a grammatical purpose.

Period . – This is used at the end of a sentence. It’s also used if you are abbreviating a word.
My name is Yvonne.
Mr. Crawford is my husband. (Please note in the UK, they do not put a period after the abbreviation of personal titles.)

Comma ,– This is used when you have 2 or more adjectives, when listing, separating a city and state, writing dates, breaking into a sentence with information that adds information, after an introductionary phrase, separating 2 independent clauses (with a conjunction like ‘and’), when you are addressing someone, or when writing dialog.
The big, brown cat is happy.
I have apples, oranges and grapes in my fruit salad.
I live in Charleston, South Carolina.
Today’s date is March 22, 2010.
Brian Crawford, my husband, is Canadian.
During my nap, I was startled by the doorbell.
My daughter slipped and fell, but she was okay.

Nicole, can you take out the trash?
Lucy said, “That’s my car, not yours!”

Question mark ? – This is used at the end of a sentence which is interrogative in nature.
Will you please bring me a glass of water?

Quotation marks “” – This is used when quoting an article/person or when writing dialog.
According to a book by Powers, life is “what you make it.”
Susan said, “Hello, how are you?”

Semi-colon ; – This is used to separate 2 related but completely independent clauses (without a conjunction like ‘and’). It’s used before a conjunctive adverb like however. Also, it is used in a list where commas are already there.
I went to the supermarket; I bought some milk.
I’m very poor; however, I just bought a new BMW. (make sure to put a comma after ‘however’)
I have visited many cities: London, England; Dublin, Ireland; and Paris, France.

Colon : – This is used to introduce a list. It should be used after a complete sentence only.
I have lots of children: Amelia, Lachlan and Callum.

Exclamation mark (exclamation point) ! – This is used at the end of a sentence and shows that the writer is excited or wants to add emphasis to a sentence.
I just won 100 dollars!

Apostrophe (single quotation marks) ‘ – This is used to show possession, make contractions, or writing a quotation within a quotation
This is Sally’s shirt that I am wearing.
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.
Peter said, “Donny said, ‘How about those Cowboys?'”

Hyphen – – This is used for adding a prefix, compound words and with numbers.
He did a re-creation of the last huge party (You can use it if it might be unclear if you did not use it.) (re-creation, not recreation.)
I want to opt-out of the party.

Dash – – This is used when you want to make a interruption in your sentence.
I was really surprised – as you assumed when you saw my face – that my mother gave me a new car.

Personal Titles in English

There are 4 personal titles that are used a lot in the English language. Mr. Mrs. Miss and Ms. In the UK, you do not use periods after the abbreviations of personal titles, but in the USA and Canada you do use periods.

You use titles with people who are older than you or who you respect. Depending on your work environment you may or may not call your boss by their personal title and last name. At my job we call everyone by their first names, even the CEO of the company. However, if you work at a school, even the teachers call each other using their personal titles because they want the students to do the same.

Here in the South, they also have a new use of personal titles. My children’s friends call me, “Ms. Yvonne.” In many other states (like Texas) they would call me, “Mrs. Crawford.” So, some of this is regional.

Mr. is used for married and unmarried males. Mr. is followed by the last name of the person. In mailings you can either put both the first and last name or just the last name depending on how formal you would like to be. For young boys you can use “Master,” but this is not the norm in the USA.
Mr. Brian Crawford (on a formal letter)
Mr. Crawford (in conversation)

Miss is used for young unmarried women.
Miss Amelia Crabtree (on a formal letter)
Miss Crabtree (in conversation)

Mrs. is used for married women or women who are old enough to be married.
Mrs. Yvonne Crawford (on a formal letter)
Mrs. Crawford (in conversation)

Ms. is a newer title for women. It’s used for when you aren’t quite sure whether or not the person is married or not, so you can just say Ms.
Ms. Culpepper
Ms. Alexandra Culpepper
Ms. Yvonne (Like stated above, in the South, kids will call their friend’s parents by their first name but add Ms. in front of it.)

It’s vs. Its

Many native English speakers, as well as English learners, have trouble knowing when to use which – it’s or its.

“It’s” means “it has” or “it is”
It’s been a great day! (It has)
It’s been good talking to you. (It has)
It’s 11:26pm. (It is)
It’s Saturday, March 20th. (It is)
It’s wonderful to see you. (It is)

“Its” is the possessive of it.
The Honda is known for its reliability.
I ate some gumbo yesterday. I found its taste to be quite good!

Basically, if you are not sure which to use, see if you can substitute “it is” or “it has” in place of “it’s/its” and if it works, then it should be “it’s”. If it doesn’t, then it should be “its”.

Lie or Lay???

Do you know what the difference is between ‘lie’ and ‘lay’?

Lie means “to recline”. It’s an intransitive verb which means it does not take a direct object.

I am lying on the bed.

Lay means “to put” or “to place”. It’s a transitive verb which means it takes a direct object.

I am laying the shirt on the table.

There is one tricky part, the past tense of ‘lie’ is ‘lay’. Also, the past tense of ‘lay’ is ‘laid’. So, you have to be careful which you use.

Also, remember that ‘lie’ also has another meaning and that meaning is “to not tell the truth”.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is also called St. Paddy’s Day. It is a day to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland. It’s celebrated on March 17, every year. It’s celebrated in many more countries than only Ireland. It is a very fun day in the United States. Even though it is an Irish Catholic holiday, almost everyone celebrates it these days.

In this post I’m going to concentrate on how we celebrate it in the United States. First of all, you should wear green or some kind of Irish clothes. If you don’t wear green you might get pinched. I remember this from when I was in elementary school and got pinched one year by many classmates because I forgot to wear green on St. Paddy’s day.

There are lots of Irish Pubs in the states and this day is huge for them. They have gigantic parties and everyone drinks beer, even green beer. these parties last into the wee hours of the night. They are so big that the parties don’t stay in the pub, they overflow into the streets.

For youngsters, they can buy green ice cream or shakes at many of the fast food restaurants.

Many cities, including mine, have big St. Patrick’s Day parades. Also, cities dye their rivers or water fountains green.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

For more information on this holiday go to:

Using Capital Letters in English

All languages capitalize different words. As an English learner you should try to remember when to use a capital letter. Here are some places where you capitalize words:

1. At the beginning of a sentence.

My dog is tired and hungry.

2. The word ‘I’.

You and I are best buds.

3. The first letter of people’s names:

My name is Yvonne Crawford.

4. Cities, states, countries, continents or major geographic locations.

I live in Charleston, South Carolina.

5. Days of the week and months.

Today is Thursday, March 11th.

6. At the beginning of the letter and at the end of a letter.

Dear Sally,

Love, Yvonne

7. Languages and nationalities.

French is spoken by the French.

8. Holiday, religious holidays, religious scripture and religious dieties.

A lot of Christians like to celebrate Christmas.

9. Titles of people

Mrs., Mr., Capt., Sister, etc.

10. Capitalize the first letter of all of the words in a title of a book, movie, article and other similar items. Except, do not capitalize prepositions, articles or conjunctions (unless they are at the beginning of the title).

The King and I

Gerunds vs. Infinitives

Another grammar point that goes with gerunds is using infinitives (ex. to sleep). The big question is, when do you use an infinitive and when do you use a gerund??? There are lots of rules and cases where you use one or the other, for this post, I will give an overview and go into more detail in future posts.
Both gerunds and infinitives can be used as the subject of a sentence:
Surfing at the beach is fun.
To surf at the beach is fun.

Both can be used as the object of a sentence:
I like surfing at the beach.
I like to surf at the beach.

Only gerunds can be used as the object of the preposition:
I like speaking about surfing at the beach. – correct
I like speaking about to surf at the beach. – incorrect

Here are a few generalizations when deciding to use one or the other:

Gerunds are used when the actions are finished or they are real.
I finished surfing.
I stopped surfing.
(I have completely finished surfing.)

Infinitives are used when the actions take place in the future or they are not real.
I stopped to surf.
(This means I was doing something else, like walking and I stopped doing that and then soon I will begin to surf.)