There are a ton of snarky memes cluttering the Interweb reminding you how stupid you are. This is not one of those. Hopefully, if you trudge through to the end, this will actually be useful. And I mean more useful than one size fits all, a pet rock, Bill Cosby’s book on how to get a girlfriend, the McDonald’s healthy eating plan, free condoms from social workers (who the fuck wears those? They don’t even fit over a average sized toe), mansplaining, and numerology. Many people are not native English speakers. I’m not just talking about the people on Fox News, although I probably should, I’m talking about people who were raised to speak a language not native to the U.S. Yes, I know, it’s hard to believe but it’s true. There are people who were born on Earth and not raised to speak English.
That said, there are also many such people who are trying to communicate with the rest of the planet while using a language not their own. Instead of being helpful the Interweb thingie makes fun of them. That’s not as supportive as some would have you believe. One might think, given that the Internet is the largest repository of information ever known, it might be a little more useful. You’d be wrong, but I can understand how you’d come to that conclusion.
So, let’s get started.
Their, they’re, and there
Their – possessive plural – This is their home.
They’re – a contraction of They + Are – They’re the owners of this home.
There – a location – You can see a nice home over there.
It’s not that complex, you just need to pause and consider which concept it is you are trying to convey.
You’re and your
You’re – a contraction of You + Are – You’re the owner of this home.
Your – possessive singular – This is your home.
I’d make the same comment here as I made for the above clarification.
To, too, and two
To – implies a transition, usually physical – We went from our house to your home.
Too – also, as well, or, if you’re really fucking cool, albeit – The Thompson’s have a nice car and a nice home too. Or, if you’re really better than free sex in a Tokyo brothel (don’t judge me) this can also work; Too, Mr. Thompson is a nice guy but he still paid his car payments by giving blowjobs to teenage sailors.
Two – a number – Those fuckers are so rich they have not just one home, but two.
Are – a qualifier for verbs (most of the time, we’ll worry about the rest of the possible uses at some later date) – We are going to your house. Also works in question form; Are we going to your house?
Our – plural possessive – This is our fucking house.
It’s and its
It’s – a contraction of it and is – It’s wonderful to see your lovely house.
Its – possessive – The alien across the street has invited us to its house. It’ll be serving Grebnar canapés and blood pudding.
Heard and herd
Heard – implies that your brain has recognized a sound – I heard the alien’s house get hit by the CIA’s missiles just after the party.
Herd – a collection of animals, usually cows, but not always – Now that the aliens have finished their retaliatory raids on the planet our herd is allowed to forage almost a full acre. I’ve learned to love the taste of grass.
Then there are the lovely words that look similar but are pronounced radically different.
Hood rhymes with good, but blood rhymes with mud.
Round rhymes with sound while wound rhymes with mooned.
Friend rhymes with end and fiend rhymes with greened. And, bonus, if your friend is a fiend it may mean your (absolutely cute and worthy of ogling) end will end up fertilizing the green, green, grass of home.
Let’s move on to phrases. This can get tricky. Accents, bad translations, and general ignorance of the history of a phrase can combine to create confusion.
For all intensive purposes. This is wrong. It can only be right is your purposes are beset by stress inducing phenomena, i.e., things that are intense. Instead, use for all intents and purposes. That describes the desire and results nicely without confusion.
Nip it in the butt. This is wrong unless you are literally planning on biting another person in the ass. Nip it in the bud, stopping something before it has a chance to grow, is the phrase you want.
I could care less. This means you care and could care less. This is not useful information if you think about it. I couldn’t care less, in other words you aren’t interested in the item presented, is much better and clearer.
You’ve got another thing coming. Take a moment and you’ll realize that this is kind of nice to say. Here’s a thing, and here’s another thing you have coming. You know what? You deserve lots of things. What you’re looking for is you’ve got another think coming. As in, you need to reconsider your position since you are not only wrong but a moron.
Statue of limitations. While a fascinating idea for a bad art project, there is no such thing. A statute of limitations, in other words a specific time an action can occur, is what you need.
I did good versus I did well. Use good as an adjective, to describe a noun, and well to describe a verb. Allegedly, I am a good person and I write stories well. See? It’s not that hard.
I’m giving you leadway. First, there is no such word as leadway. What you’re looking for is leeway. Leeway denotes space to do something. So giving someone leeway is giving them room, either physically or metaphorically.
Scotch free. Unless you’re literally giving away free booze, this means nothing. What you’re looking for is Scot Free, which denotes you’re as free as the Scots. Which was a thing until they got conquered by the British, but that’s a story for another day.
There are more. Many, oh my fucking God why are there so many?, more. CLICK HERE to learn while you laugh.
To help you make sense of it all please allow me to share this poem, en toto, from the world renowned linguist, and professional asshole, Benny Lewis. Well, he’s Irish. What did you expect?
Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough —
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!*
*Disclaimer: My advice is actually to never give up!!
Now, get out there and let’s make Disney proud of your linguistic skills.