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Commonly misused words

Commonly misused words

Author: Ryan Howard

    Introduce commonly misused words and how to use them correctly (e.g. accept vs. except, then vs. than, i.e. vs. e.g., etc.). 


    Explain devices or strategies that learners can use to remember how to use commonly misused words correctly (e.g. mnemonic devices) 


This packet should help a learner seeking to understand English writing style and who has made mistakes with word choice. It will explain commonly misused words and how to correct them.

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Commonly Misused Words Presentation

Special Focus

Some of the most commonly misused words by students are:


Its/ It's




Your - Possessive Pronoun in the 2nd person that refers to the something belonging to you

You're - A contraction for "You are."

If unsure, use "You are" in a sentence and see if it sounds right.  If it doesn't, use your.

e.g. "You are right." - sounds right

        "This is you are book" - does not sound right


Its - Possessive pronoun in the 3rd person referring to something that belongs to a thing

     (e.g. The cat licked its paw.)

It's - Contraction for "it is"

If unsure, remember that contractions always have apostraphes.  If you see "it's," you will know it is the contraction.  You can do the same thing with "you are" and read "it is"  everytime you're confused.

e.g. "It is a good picture" - sounds right

       " The car lost it is tire" - does not sound right


To - In the direction of  (e.g. I am going to the mall.)

Too- Also, in addition to (e.g. I want to go too.)

In this case, you can look at the fact that "too" as in also has two O's.  This can mean an extra o in addition to the first.  When you spell "too," add in this "o" too!


There - at that location

Their - possessive pronoun refering to belonging to them

They're - Contraction for "they are"

As in "it's," remember the apostrophe rule in contractions.  Because the other words do not have apostrophes, it narrows it down to "they're."

Think of "their" as having the word "heir"(one who inherits something) in it

There has "here" in the word.  Here is another direction just like there.


Exercise: Identify the correct word in the sentence.


  1. Josh is going (to/ too) the store.

        2. That is (they're / there / their) money.

        3. Peter, this is (you're / your) book.

        4. Dale likes tuna ( to / too).

        5. (Its / It's) not fair!

       6. The cow had (its / it's) horns removed.

       7. (They're / There / Their) is a new bar opening on Main Street.

      8. I like (you're / your) new dress.

      9. Maria does not know why (they're / their / there) late.



The King Who Rained

A humorous video on the misinterpretation of words.


As this lesson draws to an end, you should be able to identify the proper word in a context and use some techniques to remember that word. 


  • Look for something such as a letter or sound in a word and associate it with something else ( e.g. associating the letter "E" in "emigrate" with E in exit)


  • Try to see if a word "sounds right" in a sentence and if it doesn't, it's probably the other word (e.g. substituting "you are" for the contraction "you're" and reading the sentence that way)


  • Use a prefix or suffix to associate one word with another. (e.g the word "illicit" means "illegal" and both words begin with the prefix "ill")