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Grammar Tips


An "s" on the end of a word can do two things: make a noun plural or possessive. A plural indicates there is more than one thing (apple/apples). A possessive indicates ownership, that something belongs to someone (Jane's dog). The apostrophe (') makes it a possessive, not a plural. This may seem basic, but people get their plurals and possessives confused all the time.

Apostrophes (')

Apostrophes can be confusing because they do more than one thing. They indicate possession (see above) but they also indicate contractions, like isn't, you'll, wouldn't. In contractions, the apostrophe stands for the missing letters (you will becomes you'll, leaving out the w and the i).

It's Super Confusing

It's and its drives everyone crazy because it's seems to be the exception to the possessive rule. If Mary's dress means the dress belongs to Mary and John's car means the car belongs to John, then shouldn't it's toy mean the toy belongs to it? Well, it doesn't. It's stands for the contraction it is.
It's (with an apostrophe) means IT IS.
Its (with no apostrophe) means BELONGS TO.

Tip: Every time you see the apostrophe, say it is out loud to yourself and you will always get this right.

Here's another helpful way to think about this problem: his, hers, theirs and its are all possessives with no apostrophe. In that way its doesn't really break the possessive rule, it follows it.


Your means something belongs to you: your glasses.
You're means you are.

People always confuse these two. They write, Your the best!
But that's not correct. To mean you are, you're must have the apostrophe.

The Terrible Twos

Two is a number
Too means also
To is the preposition that indicates transfer or direction as in "give it to Jim", or "I'm going to the store."

So There!

Like the twos, there are three theirs, and they're:
There: Place: Put it there.
Their: Possession: Their house.
They're: A contraction that means they are.

Five Principles/pals

There are only two spellings of this word, but there are at least five uses. Since a few are very close in meaning, it's best to check yourself every time you use the word:

Principle: Guideline or rule: The most basic principle of investing is to buy low and sell high.
Principle: Moral guideline or conduct: It's against my principles to cheat.
Principal: Main or major: The principal reason I asked you here today.
Principal: The head of a school
Principal: Capital sum of money, as distinguished from interest.

The Desired Effect

Effect is a noun: Jan's raise had a great effect on her attitude.
Affect is a verb: Jim was so affected by the training, his sales performance doubled.

These two words are difficult because their meanings are so close. We could say Jim was so affected by the training that it had a positive effect on his sales. Here's the simplest trick to remember the difference: If you can put "an" or "the" in front of it, use effect.

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