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Grammar resource: Homophones

There/their/they’re

Probably the most confused homophone in the English language!

There

There can be used in two ways:

As a pronoun preceding words such as 'is', 'was', 'has', 'could' etc:

Examples: 

There was one opportunity…

There could be several explanations for this result.

 

As an adverb referring to a place (not always physical).

Examples: 

No researchers have managed to work there before.

I think we should finish there for today.

 

Their

Their is a possessive pronoun indicating belonging to them.

Examples: 

The participants used their own equipment…

The researchers statistically analysed their results using a chi-square test.

 

They're

They’re is a contraction for 'they are'. It is advised that you avoid using contractions in academic writing unless you are quoting other people (for example dialog from an interview).

Examples: 

They're going to announce the results tomorrow.

There is no way they're going to like it!

Your/you’re

Your

Your is a word used to indicate belonging or possession.

The personal pronoun 'you' is rarely used in academic writing as you are rarely directly addressing your reader in assignments. For the same reasons you are unlikely to use this possessive form very often either.  You may however find you use it in job applications when you want to refer to the company you are applying to.

Examples: 

I am excited by the opportunities your company offers...

The patient reacted by shouting "take your hands off me".

 

You're

You’re is a contraction for 'you are' for example:

Examples: 

You’re welcome to attend…

"That's the only reason you're here!" she shouted.

 

Please note that you should only use contractions in academic writing when you are quoting from someone else (for example in an interview transcript).

To/two/too

To

The word to has a number of uses. It can be used when describing going towards something.

Example: During an expedition to India,…

 

 or to indicate purpose or aim:

Example: Once again the advice on the website came to my aid.

 

It is also used to indicate the infinitive or base form of a verb:

Example: Peter has ambitions to become a lawyer when he graduates.

 

Sometimes without the actual verb if it is implied:

Example: The child wanted to cry but tried hard not to.

  

Two

Two is the written form of the number 2.

Example: There were two participants in this study.

 

Too

Too can be used in two different ways. Firstly, it can be used to indicate an excessive amount of something:

Example: Some concepts can be too complex to understand without careful thought. 

 

It can also be used to mean in addition or aswell:

Example: Some participants brought their friends along too.

Note, the above sentence is a little informal for academic writing and it would be better to reword it to use 'also' instead: 'Some participants also brought their friends with them'.

Compliment/complement

Compliment

To compliment someone is to have something nice to say:

Example: I must compliment the authors on their use of language.

Complement

To complement is to go well with something.

Example: The procedures complement each other, providing excellent all-round care.   

Stationary/stationery

Stationary

To be stationary is to be motionless:

Example: The king waited; stationary at the head of his troops.

Stationery

Stationery is another word for basic office supplies like pens, pencils, paper, envelopes etc..

Example: Equipped with the necessary stationery, I proceeded to the interview room.