Skip to main content
Humanities LibreTexts

5.2: Homonyms

  • Page ID
    108094
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    The Homonyms: There, There, Their, and They’re

           The words there, there, their, and they’re are called homonyms.  Homonyms are words that are usually spelled differently and have different meanings and uses but sound the same.  English has lots of homonyms.  The words to, two, and too are also homonymsOthers are by, buy, and bye, for, four, and fore.  There are many more.

    1.  “There” at the end of a sentence

           When “there” is used at the end of a sentence, it means a place.

    I put the book over there.
    We have already gone there three times.
    The boy sat there.

    2.  “There” at the beginning of a sentence

           When “there” is used at the beginning of a sentence, it is almost always used with the verb to be (am, is, are, was, were, have been, has been, had been, will have been).  This means that something exists.  There and the verb to be are used to help explain that something is a fact or true.  “There” at the beginning of a sentence does not usually mean a place.  When foreign people use “there” at the beginning of a sentence to mean a place, it is very confusing to a native speaker.

    There are 50 states in the United States.
    There is a white board in this classroom.
    There were three eggs in the refrigerator this morning.
    There was a spider on the wall in my kitchen this morning.
    There have been two world wars in the last 100 years.

    3.  “Their”

           “Their” is a possessive adjective.  It means that something belongs to more than one person.  It shows some kind of ownership by a group.

    “Do you see those two boys”?  I am their father.”
    “That woman over there is their mother.”
    Some students left their books in my classroom.
    My next-door neighbors have a red car.  The red car is their car.

    4.  “They’re”

           “They’re” is a contraction for “they are.  It is used mainly in speaking. In writing, people usually write out the full form, “they are.”

    They’re on vacation this week.  They’re at the beach.  They’re having fun.

    There, There, Their, and They’re Exercise

    Exercise 1:  Choose the correct words, please.

    1.  The boys put ------------------- present for -------------------- father over -------------------.

     

    2.  ------------------- are five boxes of books in the closet.

     

    3.  I know that ------------------- working hard on ------------------- homework.

     

    4.  -------------------- new car cost the family about $30,000.

     

    5.  -------------------- with ------------------ friends in that room --------------------.

     

    6.  -------------------- were fifteen men working on that building --------------------.

     

    7.  -------------------- are three bedrooms in -------------------- house.

     

    8.  I know that -------------------- studying with -------------------- cousins in the library.

     

    9.  -------------------- are twenty-six letters in the English alphabet.

     

    10.  They go with -------------------- teachers for -------------------- lesson --------------------.

     

    11.  We have taken -------------------- car to -------------------- mechanic over ----------------.

     

    12.  He has ridden on -------------------- horse on -------------------- farm near his house.

     

    13.  The women were complaining about -------------------- husbands over ------------------.

     

    14.  -------------------- swimming with ------------------- mother in the lake -------------------.

     

    15.  I wonder if ------------------------ books fell on the floor.

    The Homonyms: Whose, Who’s, and Who’s

           The words whose, who’s, and who’s are another set of tricky homonyms that are often confused by people in writing.  They sound the same, but their meanings are quite different.

    1.  “Whose”

           “Whose” is a possessive question word.  Whenever a person wants to know the owner of something, he/she will ask, “Whose X is this?”  In other words, they want to know who owns X.  Almost always after “whose,” people put the name of the item they are asking about.  In addition, “whose” is a relative pronoun which is used in possessive relative clauses.  “Whose” is also used in possessive noun clauses.

    Whose teacher am I?
    Whose classroom are we in?
    Whose office is in room 211?
    Whose coat is that on the floor over there?
    I went to the party with Roger, whose wife is a teacher in this college.
    The girl whose father is a friend of mine is from China.
    The table whose legs are uneven is in front of this classroom.
    I know whose coat that is.  It is Bob’s coat.
    Do you know whose pencil this is?
    Whose wife is from Brazil is your teacher’s wife.

    2.  “Who’s” and “Who’s”

           “Who’s” has two meanings.  One is “who is” and the other is “who has.”  A native speaker can tell the difference by the use of “who’s” to tell which one it means.  If the person wants to use the present continuous tense with “who’s,” then “who’s” means “who is” because in the present continuous tense the main verb is in its ing form (present participle).  Also, if no verb follows “who’s,” then “who’s” means “who is.”  If, on the other hand, the person wants to use the present perfect tense, then “who’s” means “who has” because in the present perfect tense the main verb is in its past participle form.

    “Who’s talking on the phone?”  Who is …
    Who’s cooking in the kitchen?  Who is …
    I know who’s making all that noise.  Who is …
    Who’s in the kitchen with John?  Who is …
    Who’s sitting in the front row?  Who is …

    Who’s been to France before?  Who has …
    Who’s eaten all of the cheese and bread?  Who has …
    Who’s studied for the examination?  Who has
    I know who’s seen that new film.  Who has …
    I asked everyone in the room, “Who’s taken my car keys?”  Who has …

    Review Lesson: Possessive Nouns and Possessive Adjectives (“Whose”= the Question Word or Possessive Pronoun)

         Possessive nouns and possessive adjectives show ownership.  That means that something belongs to someone.  Both possessive nouns and possessive adjectives come in front of the nouns they own.

    Possessive Nouns:  Possessive nouns are made by adding an ’S after a singular noun (or an irregular plural noun) and an s’after a regular plural noun.

    Singular Nouns (and Irregular Plural Nouns)              Plural Nouns

    The boy’s dog                                                                the boys’ dog

    Tom’s father                                                                  the students’ teacher

    My son’s friend                                                              my sons’ friend

    Bob and Tom’s sister                                                      the ladies’ clothes

    The man’s hat                                                               the dogs’ tails

    The men’s department                                                   the parents’ responsibility

    The children’s room                                                       the tenants’ landlord

    Exercise 2:  Make the following nouns possessive, please.

    Examples:

     Don  hat                  Don’s hat                   the lady  shoes            the lady’s shoes

    The child  toys           the child’s toys           the ladies shoes           the ladies’ shoes

    The fathers   tools      the fathers’ tools        Wendy books              Wendy’s books

    1.  My two sons room  --------------------           2.  The children  jobs --------------------

    3.  Mary Ann car  --------------------                  4.  The workers bathroom  -------------------

    5.  the student book  -------------------              6.  Blanca bag  --------------------

    7.  the teacher sore back -------------------         8.  The employees rules  --------------------

    9.  the doctor patient  --------------------           10.  The lawyers offices  --------------------


    5.2: Homonyms is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Don Bissonnette.

    • Was this article helpful?