Do you find it difficult to recall the difference between effect and affect, lie and lay, or it’s and its? You’re not the only one! These words are called homophones, words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings. If you find yourself spelling any, several, or all of these homophones incorrectly, here are some neat tricks to help you remember.
There vs. Their vs. They’re
There has to do with a place and is conveniently only one letter different from here and where, which also refer to places, making it easy to remember. “There he is!” “Were you there when she punched him?” Their is possessive just like his, her, and your are. “Their cat ran away.” “This book is mine, but that one is theirs.” Think of “He is their heir” to remember. They’re is a contraction of they are just like you’re is a contraction of you are. “They’re here!” “They’re not coming to the party.”
Effect vs. Affect
Effect is a noun that is commonly seen in the pair “cause and effect.” “The cause produces the effect.” “He didn’t suffer many effects from the treatment.” But affect is a verb. “Caffeine doesn’t affect me.” “My family was affected by the flood.” Think of “evil effects” and “Advil affects me” to remember the difference!
Too vs. To
Too is an adverb and can mean very, also, in addition, in excess. For example, “I ate too much,” “When you said we were going, I didn’t know he was coming too,” and “The puppy was too excited and wet the floor.” To is most commonly used as a preposition that refers to a direction, a movement, a position, as part of an infinitive, etc. “I gave the present to him.” “We’re going to the beach!” “She told me to go home and think about what I’d done.” Too has an extra o in it, so let that help you remember that too has to do with more and extra.
It’s vs. Its
This one seems especially difficult to remember, but it’s is the contraction of it is or it has. “It’s not your fault but mine.” “It’s been a long day.” Its is possessive. “Give the dog back its bone.” This one seems to trip a lot of people up in their writing, but yours, ours, and his are all possessive and all end in an s without an apostrophe, so think of those when you’re trying to remember the difference between it’s and its. If that doesn’t help, try separating the word into its component parts, and if it still makes sense, use the contraction. For example: “It’s going to be a long night.” When we separate it’s into its component parts, the sentence still makes sense: “It is going to be a long day.” Now take the sentence “The dog wagged its tail.” If we try to separate its into it is, the sentence would no longer make sense: “The dog wagged it is tail.”
Lay vs. Lie
Lay is a transitive verb, meaning that it needs a noun, called a direct object, to complete the statement. “Lay the book down.” “They are laying carpet next week.” Lie is in intransitive verb, meaning that cannot take an object. “I need to lie down.” “The book is lying on the table.” If you’re trying to decide between lay and lie, try substituting put into the sentence. If it makes sense with put, then use lay. “Put the baby in the crib” = “Lay the baby in the crib.” And don’t forget that the past tense of lie is lay, which is probably where all the confusion stems from.
“Alot” vs A lot
“Alot” is not, I repeat, not a word, though it might be this very amusing animal. A lot, however, is a large quantity or amount, like a bunch or a little. “I like cats a lot.” “He has a lot of books.”
Than vs. Then
Than is used for comparison. “I like chocolate more than I like coffee.” “Rather than tattling, the little boy took matters into his own hands.” Then has to do with time. “I’ll see you then!” “Then, we went to the mall and bought shoes.” To help, remember that when also deals with time. When? Then!
I hope these tips will help you to start spelling these words correctly! And if you don’t see a homophone pair that you struggle with on this list, leave a comment below!