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Irregular Verbs and Pronouns: Writing Skills Success Study Guide (page 3)

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Who/That/Which

Who refers to people. That refers to things. Which is generally used to introduce nonrestrictive clauses that describe things. Look at the following sentences to see how each of these words is used.

      There is the woman who helped me fix my flat tire.
      The man who invented the polio vaccine died in 1995.
      This is the house that Jack built.
      The book that I wanted is no longer in print.
      Abigail, who rescued my cat from the neighbor's tree, lives across the street.
      Yasser Arafat, who headed the PLO, met with Israeli leaders.
      The teacher asked us to read Lord of the Flies, which is my favorite novel.
      Mount Massive, which is the tallest peak in the Rocky Mountains, looms above Leadville, Colorado.

There/Their/They're

There is an adverb telling where an action or item is located. Their is a possessive pronoun that shows ownership. They're is a contraction for the words they are. Of all the confusing word groups, this one is misused most often. Here is an easy way to distinguish among these words.

  • Take a close look at this version of the word: THERE. You can see that there contains the word here. Wherever you use the word there, you should be able to substitute the word here, and the sentence should still make sense.
  • Their means belonging to them. Of the three words, their can be most easily transformed into the word them. Try it. You'll discover that two short markings—connecting the i to the r and then drawing a line to make the ir into an m—will turn their into them. This clue will help you avoid misusing their.
  • Finally, imagine that the apostrophe in they're is actually a very small letter a. If you change they're to they are in a sentence, you'll never misuse the word. Look over the following example sentences.
      There [here] is my paycheck.
      The new chairs are in there [here].
      Their [belonging to them] time has almost run out.
      This is their [belonging to them] problem, not mine.
      They're [they are] planning to finish early in the morning.
      I wonder how they're [they are] going to work this out.

Tip

Identify the special verb or pronoun problem that gives you the most trouble. Explain the correct way to use it to a friend or family member. Make a conscious effort to use it correctly at least three times today.

Exercises for this concept can be found at Irregular Verbs and Pronouns: Writing Skills Success Practice Exercises.

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