We all do it – mistake one word for another because we can’t remember how to spell it. 

And you can’t count on your spellchecker to find the mistake, because you’ve actually spelled a real word.  It just wasn’t the one you wanted to spell.

Here are some common words that get mixed up:

INPATIENT / IMPATIENT
I remind myself which to use by remembering that an INPATIENT is someone who is IN the hospital.  IMPATIENT  refers to an inability to wait.

THEN / THAN
People get lazy when they speak.  Of course, we often forgive lazy speakers, but we rarely overlook lazy writing.  THEN is a function of time, as in “we ate, THEN we swam.”  (Actually, we probably should have waited 30 minutes, THEN swam, but…)  THAN is a comparison.  “There was more swimming THAN eating.”

THEY’RE / THERE / THEIR
Some people can’t seem to figure this one out.  My rule?  THERE is a place, just like WHERE.  Contractions always get an apostrophe, so THEY’RE is two words connected.  And THEIR is a possesive, like HIS or HER or ITS.

ARE / OUR
This one speaks for itself.  I think this mistake might be as much a function of the accent you grew up with as anything else.

A / AN
I usually mess this one up when I change a word and forget to change the rest of the sentence.  ‘A’ can be used to describe a word that sounds like it starts with a consonant.  ‘AN’ is used for words that sounds like it starts with a vowel. 

A plant that flavors food would be AN HERB while one of a group of men named Herbert would be A HERB. 

THEATER / THEATRE
Some will tell you that ‘THEATER’ is the building and ‘THEATRE’ is the art.  Others will say that the -RE ending was the original British spelling and Webster (the dictionary guy) changed it to streamline an American English.

The realist in the crowd (me) will tell you that it only depends upon how esoteric or sophisticated you want to sound.  THEATRE is hip and avant-garde.  THEATER is where you go to eat popcorn mixed with plain M&Ms.  (If you haven’t tried the two together, do it ASAP!)

TO / TOO / TWO / TUTU
This one’s a bit silly.  TOO indicates excess, TO is a direction, TWO is a number and TUTU is a dress worn by a ballerina.

PAST GRAMMAR LESSONS:

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  …Overpunctuation???!!!

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  Lists

Tim’s Grammar Lessons:  Business Letter Writing

Tims grammar Lesson’s; Part 1

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