There, There, They’re Luke

Luke C. garnered highest grade in his class on this homework assignment, but confusing two homophones cost him five points!

Luke’s score, ninety-one points out of a possible hundred, is nothing to sneeze at. As a matter of fact, he earned a higher grade on this assignment than any of his classmates. Judging by the signs of erasure and rewriting, he even appears to have been heeding our advice, printed on his reading comprehension homework question paper, to go back, reread, and make corrections to his answers. Nevertheless he fell victim to the infamous Their/There/They’re pitfall. Those three words sound similar but have radically different meanings.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably unlikely to get these particular homophones mixed up, but are you sure that you aren’t making any other, similar, errors? The confusion of affect and effect, for example, seems widespread even among adult native English-speakers. It tops a Reader’s Digest list of commonly confused homphones. The use of it’s in place of its (and vice versa) is surprisingly commonplace as well. A few minutes spent perusing a list of problematic homophones may turn out to be time well spent.‘s collection, for example, includes two more that we see quite often in the course of marking students’ assignments: principal vs. principle and a lot vs. alot. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed!