Sunday, January 11, 2015

Terrible Twins and Triplets of Grammar - Part I

THE / A / AN

THE is a definite article and refers to something specific.
 I saw THE moon last night.

A is an indefinite article. It refers to something general, not specific.
N.B.: use A before a CONSONANT
I saw a star in the sky.

AN is an indefinite article. It refers to something general, not specific
N.B. use AN before a VOWEL (a, e, i, o, u)
I saw AN asteroid in the sky.

If the vowel sounds like a Y or a W, use A.
He is a one-trick pony. (one = won)
He wears a uniform. (uniform = you-niform)


THIS is a singular demonstrative pronoun. It refers to something close at hand.
This pen is running out of ink.

THESE is a plural demonstrative pronoun, referring to things close at hand.
These high heels are killing me!

THAT is a singular demonstrative pronoun.  It refers to something comparatively far away.
That car over there is burning a lot of oil.

THOSE is a plural demonstrative pronoun, referring to things comparatively far away-Those trees over there are birch trees.


YOUR is a possessive pronoun meaning “belonging to you”
Your mother wears army boots!

YOU’RE is a contraction of “you are”
You’re the love of my life.


THERE is adverb of place.  Answers the question where?
I live there (in that place).

THEIR is possessive pronoun meaning "belonging to them"
That's their house. They live there.

THEY'RE is a contraction for THEY ARE.
They're waiting for us at the movie theater.

ITS vs. IT’S

ITS is the possessive pronoun “belonging to it”
The jury has reached its decision.

IT’S is the contraction of “it is” or “it has”
It’s past my bedtime.


TO is a preposition indicating place to which.
I am going to the store.
TO can also be used to indicate an infinitive verb.
I have to buy ice cream.

TWO is a number
There were two ducks swimming on the lake.

TOO can be an adverb meaning also (auch)
I am going to the Maturaball too!

TOO can also be an adverb meaning excessively
 I am too tired to watch the movie.


FUNNY is an adjective to describe a person or thing that makes you laugh.
A comedian is funny.  He tells funny jokes.
(Note:  funny can also be an adjective meaning “strange”.  The gym has a funny smell.)

FUN is an adjective or a noun.
As a noun, it means enjoyment. (Spass)
We had a lot of fun at the amusement park.

As an adjective it means “bringing enjoyment”
The amusement park was fun. We’ll have to come back sometime!


LIFE is a noun meaning “das Leben”
“Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Ferris Bueller

LIVE (short i) is a verb (zu leben, zu wohnen)
I live in Austria.

LIVE (long i) as an adjective means “alive, in the flesh” (lebend).
We always use LIVE bait when fishing.


DIE is a verb meaning to lose one’s life (sterben) (die, died, died)
My cat died last night.

DEAD is an adjective meaning not alive (tot)
My cat is dead.

DEATH is a noun meaning the absence of life (der Tod). Sometimes personified.
I’m very depressed since the death of my cat.
Death waits for no man,


WHO is a question word, asking about a person.
Who drank my Coke?

WHO can also be a relative pronoun, referring to a person.
The woman (the one) who drank my Coke was wearing lipstick.

WHICH is a question word, which asks about a specific thing.
Which dress do you like best?

WHICH can also be a relative pronoun, referring to a thing.
The car which we rented was a Maserati.

WITCH is a noun that means “Hexe” in German. Don’t confuse it with WHICH.

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